After decades of writing and directing musical videos followed by directing advertising campaigns including everything from soap to automobiles, I achieved what I considered to be the pinnacle of my career; writer, director, editor, and producer of advertising campaigns selling products to the wealthy.
My work took me to the far corners of the earth revealing the marvelous environmental and human contributions to civilization. I relished the opportunity to return to Florence to complete an advertising campaign for an haute couture designer.
Directors are like cooks. In advertising campaigns, we have to complete a story in minutes, not hours. We borrow everything from the pantry and load it into the pot including environmental wonders, architecture, music, and artistic expression of all varieties. Our finished product, like a succulent dish, has many silent, mostly nonconsenting contributors.
The gallery in Florence provided me with an extraordinary celluloid canvas to capture the exquisite woolen fall collection of our client.
INT. LIMOUSINE -DAY
The chauffeur peers into the rear-view mirror and we see a couple. A distinguished older gentleman with slicked back grey hair wearing dark sunglasses. A brutish man who likely made a fortune with questionable endeavors. A tan cashmere coat is pulled up around his neck.
Sitting to his right is a fashion model with her hair pulled back revealing stunning diamond earrings.
The woman leans forward tapping on the window separating the chauffeur from the passengers.
“Oh, darling, don’t go inside! You’ll only be disappointed yet again.”
“You’ll never understand!”
EXT. FLORENCE GALLERY-DAY
The woman’s delicate hand emerges from the limousine and is greeted by the gloved hand of the chauffeur. The bespoke wardrobe is an excellent pairing to the fine lines of the svelte, beautiful woman who wraps a silk scarf around her head to shield her identity from the passerby’s. She carries a luxurious leather tote with the stems of two crystal wine glasses and the neck of a wine bottle peeking out.
Tracking shot of the woman hurriedly walking as if gliding atop the polished floor. The sound of her heels striking the marble floor echo throughout the gallery. She stops in front of formidable uncompleted sculptures as if asking for directions to her lover.
The woman stands before Michelangelo’s David. The sunlight from the circular skylight accentuates his every chiseled feature. The camera pans slowly from David’s intricate fingers, up his arm, to his chest, and resting with a closeup of his face peering to his left as if waiting for somebody. David’s stoic and unaware of anybody, anywhere, except that person in Michelangelo’s mind.
The woman is awestruck. She’s humbled and stands below David looking up at him. A tear falls from her eye leaving a trail of mascara like a scar marring her beauty.
She kneels to set the tote bag just outside the railing and stands to face David in a final, precious moment. She lovingly blows a gentle kiss to him and reverently, step by step, walks backwards from David only providing her with unrequited love.
EXT. AERIAL SHOT-FLORENCE-DUSK
The beautiful city is greeting the evening with a cascade of colorful lights as the client logo appears accompanied with the woman’s voiceover,
“Only the finest women’s wear is appropriate for those sublime moments when a first impression may echo through the ages.”
After finishing the shoot, I retired to the editing room to view the footage. Every frame captured the beauty borrowed from the museum culminating with magnificent David.
This image of David burned slowly in my mind and manifesting itself like a cancerous remorse as I returned to the editing room day after day and feeling Michelangelo’s presence as if peering over my shoulder. In preparation for the shoot, I recall Michelangelo’s advice,
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
I couldn’t use David like a “prop” or an “extra” to sell anything for any amount of money. I decided to remove David from the film. I aimed “too low” and was ashamed. I burned the footage, sending it back into the “ages” and into Michelangelo’s possession where it belonged.
The client was disappointed and complained about excluding David. They demanded I replace the footage of David or be fired. I replied,
“It was plagiarism.”
Word spread throughout the industry and calls from advertising agencies for my directorial services slowed to a trickle. I wouldn’t return to glorifying soap and cars. This shoot inspired me to consider retirement and review the brochures showcasing beautiful renovated farm houses in Tuscany near Michelangelo’s birthplace. For weeks and months, I considered the beautiful retirement options awaiting me.
I sensed you calling me.
I felt your aching back from painting the Sistine Chapel and the frightening sway of the scaffolding placing you high above the floor below. I could relate to your hands and fingers numb and covered with the dust from rescuing your beloved David like an “angel” from a discarded block of marble.
We both knew the humiliation of artistic expression while on bended knee to wealthy patrons.
I yearn to meet you.
I retired and we moved to Tuscany. I sit at a wooden table below an ancient tree and write. The words flow like wine pouring from the majestic countryside and the serenade of the birds is operatic. A whisp of breeze seizes my attention and I feel you looking over my shoulder as you did in the editing room perhaps in wonder at my electronic quill.
You’re a gentlemanly patron of a fellow artist.
I’ve hung a portrait of you within the foyer of our cozy farmhouse. Each evening, I arrange three place settings at our rustic dining table. Two for us and one for you. I tell my wife the third place setting is in memory of my father who was Italian.
I retire to the bedroom and lay awake under the moon generously providing enough light to create soft shadows. I relish a heavenly peace overtake me before drifting off to sleep.
“I’ll join you in a moment, my dear.
“I’m packing a final bag for the Paris shoot.
“The director has me running about every scene wearing stiletto heels like you did within the failed gallery commercial.”
What she calls “failure”, I consider a triumph of virtue.
I wonder if a shadow dancing about may be my friend and neighbor who came to say, “Goodnight”.
If you’re here with me, I recall your admonition,
“Ancora Imparo”- “I am still learning.”
Buona Notte, Michelangelo.