Tony GrisoniUKFilm1999
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Nothing I planned or anticipated for my stay at Civitella materialised in the way I imagined it would. I was kidnapped by the journey there- taken by surprise on the misty road...

"Palermo" is part of the continuing collaboration between myself and Brian Catling, another Civitella Fellow. Two facing monitors show video footage of a select few of the thousands of mummified corpses in the catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. The dangerous elegance of their silent conversation is better than any words we could have put in their mouths. Thanks to the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, "Palermo" found a first home at La Rocca, Umbertide. There is a certain sweet relish in bringing these grinning Sicilian death-heads north to Umbria.

EXT. DUSK. THOUSAND SORROWS OPIUM DEN / JOY HOUSE.

 

JACKIE MOSES falls out into the night - drifts in smoky opium dreams as his father once did. BONMOT laughs - follows on.

 

BONMOT: Where are you going, Jackie?

 

JACKIE walks through the square - guided by something inside — past Chinese bars, steam—gushing laundries and offal stalls. The narrow streets seethe with LASCARS, MALAYS, MERCHANT SEAMEN, CHINESE, PORTUGUESE, WEST INDIANS, ENGLISH PAVEMENT PRINCESSES. Languages cross-fire. Barks, yells, screaming babies, rattling carts. A steam train crashes across the causeway overhead...

 

Booming through the night comes the steady throb of a blues holler. Ahead a beacon throbs with music - The Joy House.

 

INT. NIGHT. JOY HOUSE.


JACKIE comes through. Smoke. Booze. WORKING MEN, WORKING GIRLS, SLOANS SLUMMING IT, A BEAUTIFUL TRANSVESTITE OR TWO. BONMOT gets himself a drink- snaps a Toscani in two - lights up. He looks across the smoke—filled room and sees HENRY CHONG in a booth along with a COUPLE OF OTHER CHINESE.

 

CHONG: Jacob. Did you find who kill Daniel?

 

JACKIE: ‘Don’t matter, does it, uncle.

 

CHONG: Welcome home, Jacob, welcome home. EXT. DAY. MAYPOLE ALLEY AND LITTLE DRURY LANE.

 

Blind ROSY STARLING tosses her golden hair and leans lightly on TURTLE’S arm. Light as a feather. He weaves her in and out the moving DANCERS - gently into the current of the maypole dance.

 

VOICES: Look at that! The blind girl’s dancing!

 

TURTLE and ROSY dance. She seems insensible to his tethering hand - flies like a bird.

 

ROSY: Quicker! I can go quicker! Just keep hold of me hand!

 

The COUPLE whirl to the raw music, ROSY’s smiling face turned to the sky, her golden hair flying.

 

ROSY: On me own! On me own! Let me!

 

Uncertainly, TURTLE lets ROSY go. She spins, every part of her expresses amazement and delight.


OTHER DANCERS step back. ROSY dances in a circle of space around her.
TURTLE lives for her every move - ready to catch her... Then a familiar voice rasps in TURTLE’s ear.

 

MR. DELILAH: Got to have it! Just got to have it, my boy! TURTLE turns in dismay. His drunk master, MR. DELILAH, lurches to the dance, dangerously waving his scissors.

 

MR. DELILAH: That hair! Did you ever see a finer mop? Got to have it!

 

TURTLE: Leave her, sir. Please!

 

MR. DELILAH: S’all sentiment, my boy! Just lemme at her! I’ll show you how it’s done! I’ll crop her closer than a nag’s tail!

 

TURTLE: For pity’s sake, sir!

 

MR. DELILAH: Pity...?