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Conditions in Vietnam


The first days in Saigon
Raoul Coutard Film-maker
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Well, so I'll get back to... So we had just landed, there were people that were coming, as we weren't the first ones to arrive, so there were all these Vietnamese, they came over to exchange pineapples or bananas for the things we had in our ration boxes. So... and I remember, there were boxes containing... in particular, there were boxes, I don't know why we had small shoe polish boxes, and I mean they absolutely wanted to have those things. So we would exchange them for pineapple slices because those were things we didn't know, we were really happy to eat that. Well, and then there was an absolutely extraordinary atmosphere because there were French people living there at the time. And...

[Q] But you lived in barracks?

No, no. We didn't live in barracks. There wasn't any room.

[Q] You stayed with the local population?

No, we were housed in different places, in cinemas, in theatres, in places where there were camp beds, until we found somewhere. Since I was in a... we were waiting for the cargo that brought our material in order to go from one place to another which were... actually they were places that had been taken from civil organisations. For example, we were housed straight away in a cinema in Dakao, which was a cinema, so... I mean part of the seats had been taken away, and they had put some beds.

[Q] Cinemas that were no longer being used?

They weren't open anymore, due to the circumstances, of course.

Bon, alors je reviens à mon... Donc on vient de débarquer, alors il y avait des gens qui venaient, comme on n'était pas les premiers à arriver, alors il y avait tous ces Vietnamiens là, ils venaient nous échanger des ananas ou des bananes contre des trucs de nos boîtes de rations. Bon, et je me souviens il y avait des boîtes dans lesquelles il y avait... En particulier il y avait des boîtes, je ne sais pas pourquoi On avait des petites boîtes de cirage, et ils voulaient absolument avoir ces trucs-là je veux dire. Alors on échangeait ça contre une tranche d'ananas comme c'étaient des trucs qu'on ne connaissait pas, on était vachement contents de bouffer ça. Bon, et alors là il y avait une ambiance qui était absolument extraordinaire parce qu'il y avait des Français qui habitaient là-bas à l'époque. Et...

[Q] Mais vous étiez logés dans des casernes?

Non, non, on n'était pas logés dans des casernes, il n'y avait pas de place.

[Q] Chez l'habitant?

Non, on était logés dans différents endroits, dans des cinémas, dans des théâtres, dans des grands lieux où il y avait des lits picots, jusqu'à ce qu'on trouve des endroits. Comme j'étais dans une... On attendait le cargo qui amenait notre matériel pour pouvoir aller d'un endroit à un autre endroit qui étaient, en fait c'étaient des endroits qui étaient des endroits pris à des organisations civiles. Là par exemple on a été logés tout de suite dans un cinéma à Dakao qui était un cinéma donc... Je veux dire il y avait une partie des sièges qui étaient enlevés et ils avaient foutu des plumards.

[Q] Des cinémas qui ne fonctionnaient plus?

Ils ne fonctionnaient plus, par la force des choses, bah oui.

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: Saigon

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008