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The cannonade


Landing in Saigon
Raoul Coutard Film-maker
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And then when we arrived in Indochina, we landed in Saigon, at first we anchored for quite a long time facing the Saint-Jacques Cape because we needed to wait for I don't know what. There was something that we didn't know; I mean that there were tide problems. In Saigon, there's a river, which is called the Saigon River. Since it's 50 centimetres above sea level, so the tide can be felt in the... if you dig a hole in a garden, the tide will go up and down in your hole. It's freshwater but I mean that it's the tide that stems the freshwater. So we needed the tide to be high. And since there were boats about, we needed to wait to have... so there were turns according to the tide.

And when we arrived, we disembarked, we were given disembarking points, etc., we were given supplies for two days. And the first of the surprises, what surprised me the most, was that no one spoke French. I mean I thought... It's French Indochina and no one speaks French. That was what surprised me the most. And the people... it's true that people had a look... since they all have slit eyes, it seems they have a sly look. This strange side is quite amusing. But since at the time, I mean we came over to do something, so we were filled with enthusiasm and things like that.

Et puis quand on est arrivés en Indochine, on est arrivés à Saigon, on est restés d'abord très longtemps mouiller en face du cap Saint-Jacques parce qu'il fallait attendre je ne sais pas quoi. Il y a un truc qu'on ne savait pas, je veux dire c'est qu'il y a des problèmes de marée. A Saigon il y a la rivière, ce qu'on appelle la rivière de Saigon, qui est un fleuve. Comme c'est à 50 centimètres au dessus du niveau de la mer, donc la marée se fait sentir dans des trucs... Dans un jardin tu creuses un trou et la marée monte et descend dans ton trou. C'est de l'eau douce mais je veux dire c'est la marée qui refoule l'eau douce. Donc il fallait attendre que la marée soit haute. Et comme il y avait des bateaux qui circulaient, il fallait attendre qu'on ait... Donc il y avait un tour pour passer en fonction des marées.

Et quand on est arrivés, on est débarqués, on nous a donné des points de débarquement, etc., on nous a donné des vivres pour deux jours. Et la première des surprises, moi ce qui m'a surpris le plus, c'est que personne ne parlait français. Je veux dire je me disais... c'est l'Indochine française et aucun ne parle français. Ça c'était le truc qui m'avait surpris le plus. Et les gens... c'est vrai que les gens avaient l'air de... comme ils ont tous les yeux bridés, on a l'impression qu'ils avaient l'air sournois. C'est assez marrant parce que ce côté bizarre comme ça. Mais comme à l'époque, on venait pour faire quelque chose je veux dire, donc on était encore pleins d'enthousiasme et de choses comme ça.

French cinematographer, Raoul Coutard (1924-2016) was twice nominated for the César Award for best cinematography which he won in 1978 for 'Le Crabe-tambour'. He made over 75 films and documentaries, including 'À Bout de Souffle', Le Mépris' and 'Band à Part'. He was the most acclaimed French cinematographer of his generation and one of the key figures of the New Wave.

Listeners: Bernard Cohn

Benard Cohn is a French filmmaker and writer, who has directed five films as well as numerous documentaries and television series. As an assistant director, he worked with many important filmmakers, including Luis Buñuel, François Jacob, Otto Preminger and Woody Allen. He was a founding member of the Ciné-Qua-Non cinema club and has acted as editor and translator for various publications on the world of cinema.

Bernard Cohn est un réalisateur et écrivain français, ayant réalisé cinq film ainsi que de nombreux reportages et séries télévisées. En tant qu'assistant réalisateur, il a travaillé avec plusieurs grands cinéastes, notamment Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut, Otto Preminger et Woody Allen. Il fut membre fondateur du ciné-club Ciné-Qua-Non et a participé à la rédaction et traduction en anglais, de plusieurs ouvrages sur le cinéma.

Tags: Saint-Jacques Cape, Indochina, Saigon

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008