Cinq cent balles

Melvin Van Peebles

Prod.: France Opéra / Les Films de la Pléiade. Bn

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

A child tries to retrieve a 500 francs note that has fallen into a sewer grid. But an Arab worker spots his little game and tries to take his place. The child chases him away with rocks. He is about to reach the note when a surge of water carries it off.

As a young man, I made three shorts in America but by the Spring of 1959 I was completely discouraged and had to leave. In Hollywood they were ready to offer me a job as a tap dancer, but at the time it was unthinkable that a young man with African roots could do something like write a screenplay. I went to Holland to study (astronomy!), at the same time working as an actor to make ends meet. It was people from the Cinémathèque française – Henri Langlois, Lotte Eisner, Mary Meerson – who encouraged me to go to Paris after having seen and loved my films. My early days in Paris were very difficult: I sang in the streets, begged, and learned a rather colourful French in Police stations. […] In 1960-61 I met someone who allowed me to make a short: Les Cinq cent balles. It told of the adventures of a little kid who finds some money in a manhole in Belleville. I wrote the story and music and shot the film. But I ran into problems and ended up in a real mess. I stopped going to the cinema for four years; that’s how much it hurt to see films that I could, perhaps, have made just as well or even better.

Melvin Van Peebles, interviewed by Luce Sand, “Jeune Cinéma”, n. 30, 1968

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