Musée d'Orsay

Jean-Phillipe, the clean-cut 30 year-old jockey couldn't believe he was signing autographs for lovers of fine art and fans of biographical movies, and right there at the Musée d'Orsay – the museum he was asked to make a special appearance at by publicists. It was a movie promotional party of sorts. The host, with the museum curator on the side, the movie premier was announced to be forthcoming, which was a major topic of discussion among guests invited to show up. Before the beginning of the party, the museum had been closed to the public early to allow for the preparations of the occasion. He was being treated like a well-respected art conoisseur or someone in a similar position. The occasion came complete with a wine and hors d'oeuvres party to celebrate his newfound success as an actor, as well as to celebrate the success of the movie he just starred in. The movie was his very first experience acting. Wearing a simple gray suit and yellow tie, it was quite a change of environment, with no sign of any familiar smell of horses he had grown up with far away from the loud, bustling, busy streets of Paris. It was actually his first time in Paris after filming on location in the village of Montauban, in the Midi-Pyrenées in the south region of France. Montauban was known as the place where the famous 19th century French neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was from. Somewhere somehow someone had decided that there should be a full-featured biographical movie about him, and Jean-Phillipe just happened to be the one that was chosen to play the lead, thanks to his fresh-faced "allure classique", wavy black hair and stature of only 5'3.

He had found no such success as a race rider. At least not up to that point. As he watched museum patrons look at the Ingres paintings that have always been there, he realized those paintings were now for the time being showcased as a modern promotional tool for the movie to be shown in theatres throughout France. By the force of his memory he reflected on how this came to be.

He had been simply approached by a filmmaker and casting director after a day of race riding, who apparently were invited to enter the stable area to search for someone who would be willing to disrupt his current work position as an athlete with horses and audition for the lead. Why a potential actor to play the role was not found anywhere before the choice to go a racing stable for the search was anybody's guess. They just didn't talk about it. Other roles in the movie had already been cast, including the one of the well-known rival of Ingres, the neo-classical painter Eugène Delacroix. Jean-Phillipe had collaborated with a hired art historian as one of the many requirements for acting in the role, a collaboration that he didn't mind. That, to him, was a very culturally enriching experience and didn't really feel like part of an acting job. More tedious, he remembered, was what it was like to rehearse several scenes of drawing and painting, among them the composition and oil colors work on the great full-body portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte. The jockey who had never done art before even as a hobby had to put in much effort to simulate the skill of an amazingly talented painter, all with strictly 19th century equipment, candlelight, and art supplies, with no cheating by the use of any modern means of artwork. Unaccustomed to the ways of city life and its culture, he never imagined that accepting the role would require so much even while knowing the magnitude of hard work with racehorses. He was aware, however, that at least being an actor portraying a painter wasn't nearly as physically dangerous as being a jockey. The role of Ingres didn't need a stuntman. Family members, including his wife Claire had tried to talk him into changing careers just because of that. However, Claire, who stood by him wearing a pink cocktail dress and her blonde curly hair styled to depict a coiffure of the 1830's, had no complaints that her husband was receiving such nice, positive attention in public. Everyone there was very gracious, even photographers who came to take snapshots of him for movie magazines and the like.

Appropriately, the short, pot-bellied actor who portrayed the old-age Ingres was present at the occasion, as was the child actor who had played the role of the boyhood Ingres in scenes depicting the way the Ingres boy lived during the era of the French Revolution. They had both been available to be interviewed, not just come to a party that was about what they did. The costume designers for the movie were noted to have high hopes for their own careers. They were invited to the museum party to mingle with anyone who happened to show up to ask about historical costuming for movies and plays. They were proud to have provided the elaborate and expensive creations necessary to outfit the actors and actresses who were called upon to play 19th century European royalty, whose portraits were painted by Ingres. Jean-Phillipe was happy to see that his wife thoroughly relished talking to them and asking them questions.

Many involved with the making of the movie, as anyone could imagine, had spent hours in the Musée d'Ingres in Montauban, all whether they liked it or not. Much research was obtained there to begin with during pre-production phase. Jean-Phillipe recalled inviting friends to join him there to see the great works of the painter and meet the director. Some of the production crew who were required to collect information were to get a feel of focus on Ingres as opposed to getting a feel for so many other famous artists, as what usually occurs with visitors to the Louvre. Such variety, for these people, was not allowed. Horses made available to go along with the early 19th century replicas of carriages were a pleasure for him to help out with.

Jean-Phillipe made a few comments of his own to guests who wanted to know what he thought of being an actor after taking a so-called "break" from the very different world of equestrian sports. Interestingly, no one asked him if he thought he would ever play the role of a jockey, doing what he knows how to do without the need for a stuntman, even if the storyline would take place in another country.

"S'il serait possible, peut-être on peut avoir plus de succés comme acteur aprés tout." ("If it would be possible, maybe one could have more success as an actor after all".) He was referring to himself, and how he felt about it from his own opinion, not anyone else's. He remembered that as he was busy working as the lead actor, the money that would come from it was not a preoccupation of his mind.

As it turned out, the French movie "Ingres" was not much different in style and scope than "Amadeus", the award-winning Hollywood film based on the life and incredible musical achievements of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Come to think of it, the movie "Amadeus", which eventually reached French audiences, reminded him of the movie he just starred in. Then he remembered learning while reading his script that Ingres loved the music of Mozart with a dreamy passion, so much so that it was important for the screenwriter to have included the violin playing of the painter. A real Parisian musician had taught him to at least pretend that he was actually playing the instrument, so that it would look completely real on screen. Some of the most wonderful baroque compositions Jean-Phillipe had ever heard had come straight out from motion picture soundtrack of "Ingres".

Part of what Jean-Phillipe had needed to do to express the painter's personality on screen was to take on a dreamy and passionate character. The scene where the gracefully handsome 24 year-old painter proudly composes his marvelously dignified self-portrait was brought on as a progression of rousing artistic symphony. By film reviewers and critics, he was also said to have done a fantastic job accurately presenting Ingres as a rather melancholy person, especially in terms of the painter's flowery romantic relationship with beautiful wife Madèline. The scene of the tragic illness and death of Madèline was considered by critics as one of the best scenes in the movie. Emotional drama was heavy in the movie. Rehearsing the misty love scenes with the actress who played Madèline was not as difficult as he had expected. She had more acting experience anyway and taught him how to work through them.

Scenes depicting the painter's time of poverty had been somewhat of a challenge to him, as Jean-Phillipe never personally knew any impoverished people. Not even in farm areas where his development as a horseman had taken place. He had no clue about how to "act poor", and certainly not how to act like what the poor in France appeared like back during that century. What comprised the starving artist stereotype back in those days? Was there even such as stereotype back then? An acting coach had to help him with this. At the party, he expressed his thanks openly, in front of Claire and others gathered around him.

It was not known yet if anyone outside of Europe, including Americans, would take to this movie "Ingres" the way the French obviously did. As the party remained reasonably elegant, Jean-Phillipe politely told a couple of Italian admirers, who were fluent in French as a second language, that the movie will also be marketed in Italy. This was mostly due to the fact that there was a time when Ingres had lived in Rome, a fact that was not forgotten while the screenplay was being written. Like many other French cultural film productions, it wouldn't be unheard of for "Ingres" to be available with English language subtitles.

Unfortunately, he didn't have time to really get a taste of Paris other than to show up for this movie publicity. Two evenings ago he had attended a private dinner to honor the art director and it was the most he had taken in as far as socializing went, but that was not the same as relaxing and seeing the sights of Paris. Not that he felt less of a true Frenchman for not manipulating the opportunity despite what was going on with him professionally. Should he envy the tourists? Maybe sometime when his "fame" is over with he'll be able to make the most of Paris like so many others do. Furthermore, doesn't his heart belong to horse racing and not the world of acting?

Jean-Phillipe, standing quietly holding a small plate of cheese fondue, pondered what it would be like if he were offered more movie roles because of the success of this movie. If or if not, the Jockey Club he was so fondly attached to would still welcome him back, as would the owners and trainers of thoroughbreds he was trained to perform in harmony with. He wished they were allowed to travel to Paris to accompany him to his publicity occasions for the movie "Ingres". He would hate to abandon his associations with fellow racehorse riders, including those who came from other countries. He planned on calling them and telling them to be sure to try to go see the movie wherever they live in their nearest cities of France. The movie role may finally be something to get more horse racing fans to recognize him. At this time, he couldn't be sure.

As far as he could surmise, only time will tell.

THE END