A Sensible Lunatic

Logline: A quirky tailor invents a parachute-coat for pilots in 1908 Paris and tries to win the heart of a woman married to a daredevil pilot.

FADE IN:

EXT. THE PARC DES BUTTES CHAUMONT (PARIS) – MORNING

SUPER: “PARIS 1908”

BERNHARD ZELCHERT, 36, tailor, dreamer and inventor stands on a cliff’s ledge wearing his Glider-Coat: long pieces of cloth, sewn to his baggy pants, drape down from his arms.

He pushes himself back, flips over and as his outfit fills with air he glides forward.

His gliding is brief and then he drops straight down.
Bernhard’s legs thrash wildly, his arms reach out, trying to grab something that isn’t there.

He hits the lake below with a tremendous splash!

GASTON, 17, Bernhard’s pimply, helpful assistant, watches in shock from the shoreline. Then he remembers the rope in his hands, starts pulling on it, dragging Bernhard toward him.

         BERNHARD
It worked! Did you see? For a few
seconds I slowed down and flew!
         GASTON
Amazing, yes! Every pilot there is will
want one!
         BERNHARD
But I felt where I was losing air. I
need more thread where the sleeves are
sewn to the pants. And the pants should
be one, sewn together.
         GASTON
Still though, a great first test.

Gaston helps him take off the Glider-Coat and they start folding it up.

         BERNHARD
We’ll need to dry it immediately when
we get back to the shop.
         GASTON
Do you think you’ll have the new
one ready for the Issy-les-Moulineaux
Air Competition?
         BERNHARD
No, there isn’t enough time. And it
must work properly before I show it
to any pilots. We don’t have much
room for error.
         GASTON
No, no, of course not. But this was
good. It slowed you down a little.
         BERNHARD
We just have to change that little
into a lot. But we will.

They put the Glider-Coat in the donkey cart. Bernhard flicks the reins and the donkey lurches forward, down the path.

INT. THE MUSEE CARNAVALET – EVENING

Museum workers are cleaning and closing up.

SALVADOR MEDINA, 48, an arrogant, daredevil pilot who always walks with his chest thrust forward, is in one of the museum’s storerooms with FLORENCE BOUTELL, 36, a petite woman with her hair tied up in a bun.

The door is open just a crack and they both peer through the opening, watching the workers, who then leave for the night.

Salvador and Florence walk through the closed museum.

         FLORENCE
(pointing at his grease-stained
overalls)
Did you tell her you were working
on the aeroplane again?
         SALVADOR
Oui.
         FLORENCE
How many times can you use
that excuse?
         SALVADOR
Until it doesn’t work anymore.
What did you tell Serge?
         FLORENCE
I was meeting Lorelei at a bistro.

Florence stops in front of one of the exhibits and points to the couch. The space has 18th-century furniture and paintings. She reaches down for the fabric on the couch.

         FLORENCE (cont’d)
So soft. Beautiful.

Salvador unbuckles his belt and shoves her from behind.

Florence falls forward, grabs the back of the couch, leans over it and smiles at him.

Salvador pulls his pants down, yanks up Florence’s dress, quickly unbuttons her pantaloons and pulls them down.

Florence gasps as he enters her. They make fast, hard, furious love.

The two lovers get dressed and Salvador leads her to a window. He opens it, climbs through the window and while standing outside helps Florence get out.

INT. FLORENCE AND SERGE’S TOWNHOME – LATER THAT NIGHT

SERGE BOUTELL, 42, is a brilliant automobile and aeroplane engineer. An intense man with thinning hair, he sits in the den, reading the newspaper.

Florence enters, drops her shawl on the couch next to him.

         SERGE
How’s Lorelei?
         FLORENCE
Good. She and Maurice might be going
to Portugal again, for vacation.
         SERGE
Tres bien.
         FLORENCE
I’m hungry. You?
         SERGE
No.

Florence goes into the kitchen.

Serge gets up and notices the shawl on the couch. He sees a black stain on it, looks closer and picks it up.

He brings the shawl close to his face, examining the stain. He then gets a whiff of it, stares at it as he recognizes the scent, turns his head and looks toward the kitchen.

INT. THE CABARET DE NEPTUNE – NIGHT

The smoky room is crowded. Oil lamps hang from the ceiling, casting a reddish glow. Dried pieces of seaweed also dangle from the ceiling.

On stage a small band plays fast rhythms. Three or four beautiful women prance about the room, asking men to dance.

LUC GIRARD, 42, is a brilliant/insane writer and artist who wears a cape and has long, dark hair down to his shoulders. He’s watching Bernhard, who sits alone at a table nearby. Luc then approaches him.

         LUC
A man, alone, is he?
         BERNHARD
Yes, I am.
         LUC
A drink, with us, you must.

Luc dramatically tosses back his cape and sweeps one arm out, motioning to his table.

Bernhard joins him and his two friends, MAXIME, 38, a painter with a bald, pear-shaped head, and EMILE, 40, an anarchist newspaper writer who constantly scrunches up his face when talking.

         LUC (cont’d)
A visitor? Where come you from?
         BERNHARD
Hallein, in Austria. But recently
moved here to Montmartre, about
two months ago.
         LUC
Tres bien! Willkommen!
         MAXIME
And what brings you to our lovely
village up here on the butte?
         BERNHARD
I’ve opened a shop. I’m a tailor.
         EMILE
I’m glad you’re not from Paris. Too
many Parisians ruining Montmartre.
Bourgeois scum in their top hats and
waistcoats. I hope the thieves out on
the street steal their pocket-watches
and stab their fat bellies!
         LUC
Drastic is he, but still always pointed.
More importantly, I know a game we play,
for free drinks.

He looks over to the cabaret’s entrance and sees the owner, PAUL VILLONE, 62 with gray hair, flirting with a female patron. Luc grabs his cane, reaches up, knocks off a piece of dried seaweed from the ceiling and gently catches it.

         MAXIME
It falls by itself all the time. If
you catch it and have one witness vouch
for you everyone at your table gets
a free drink.
         EMILE
Look at that, ohh! What nimble hands!
         MAXIME
Great catch! Monsieur Villone, caught
seaweed, come see!

Paul goes to the table and stands before them skeptically, arms folded across his chest.

Luc holds out his hands, showing him the seaweed.

         PAUL
You’ve been quite lucky lately,
catching a lot of seaweed.
         LUC
My mother, she had quick hands.
Like a cat.
         PAUL
Complete with claws?
         EMILE
Our new friend here saw everything.
He’s an honest man, certainly hard
working. A tailor.

Paul glances at the cane leaning against Luc’s chair.

         PAUL
I doubt your reflexes will continue
to be so good.

Paul then turns to Bernhard.

         PAUL (cont’d)
And I haven’t seen you around here
too often. Where do you live?
         BERNHARD
Nearby. On the Rue Cavallotti.
Bernhard points at Paul’s shirt.
         BERNHARD (cont’d)
If you bring that shirt in I’ll
fix that tear on your sleeve for free.
         PAUL
(looking at it)
Tear? Oh, yes. We’ll see. Maybe.

Paul turns back to Luc.

         PAUL (cont’d)
And you might force me to change the
rules here. At least over this table.

Luc looks up at him, smiles and shrugs.

         PAUL (cont’d)
And your tab is still long overdue.
I’ve extended credit to you for
almost three months now.
         LUC
Three? It’s barely been two.

A CUNNING THIEF, 34, sitting with his friends at the next table listens to their conversation.

         PAUL
I’ll get the ledger to show you.LUC
That won’t be necessary. Your lovely
dancers must be tired. I’ve written
a new poem, in honor of Monsieur Broussard,
from the Assemblee Nationale. He’s sitting
up by the stage. Give your dancers a break
and let me recite it. In exchange for
two months’ worth of my tab.
         PAUL
You’ve never written anything worth one
month, no less two.

Maxime and Emile laugh.

         LUC
Excuse me?
         PAUL
Wait, did you say Broussard? He wants
a new tax on wine and liquor sales. You
can read your poem, for one month off
your tab. Just don’t make him look too good.

Luc smiles and nods his head at him.
Paul looks at his shirt again.

         PAUL (cont’d)
Your new friend here seems nice enough.
What will it be then?
         LUC
Absinthe, of course! What else is there
in life?
         PAUL
I’ll send a server over. Then meet me
up by the stage.

Paul walks up onto the stage and quickly slides one finger across his throat, signaling the band to stop playing. He approaches the microphone.

         PAUL (cont’d)
Good evening! Once again the center of
the universe welcomes you home!

Several patrons cheer and applaud him.

         PAUL (cont’d)
And as this great band and my
beautiful dancers take a break I
have a very special treat for you.
You’ve all seen his poems, drawings
and stories in Art Monde de Paris. So
now I give you, as only Montmartre
can give you, Luc Girard!

There’s more cheering and applause from the crowd.

Luc walks onto the stage.

         LUC
In honor of our most honorable guest.

Luc throws back his cape and sweeps one arm out toward MONSIEUR BROUSSARD, a portly man in his 60s, who sits near the stage with a much younger, ravishing woman.

         LUC (cont’d)
A poem.
She had such pretty
long brown hair
that reached beyond
dare I say it?
way down there

Several men laugh while a few women gasp.

         LUC (cont’d)
and her lover a man
of power and means
seduced royalty
and all Europe’s queens

Monsieur Broussard smiles at Luc, nods his head in approval.

         LUC (cont’d)
so I say it now
proclaim it true
that I want his woman
yes through and through
he obviously doesn’t
care for her much
for if he did
other women don’t touch
his lyrical magic
that made them sigh
yet his wife remarked
was usually shy

The crowd erupts in laughter.

Monsieur Broussard stands up, almost falls over from the alcohol in him, and waves his arms at the crowd, trying to get everyone to stop laughing.

         MONSIEUR BROUSSARD
Not true! Not true at all!

The crowd laughs even more.

Luc stands on the stage smiling, raising his hands up, exhorting the crowd to laugh and cheer.

Paul joins him onstage and approaches the microphone.

         PAUL
Luc Girard, everyone! Luc Girard!

The crowd cheers and applauds some more.

Paul snaps his fingers and the band starts playing again.

As Paul and Luc walk past the bar people point at Luc, continue laughing and some playfully slap him on his back.

They stop at the cashier’s counter where they meet Bernhard, Maxime and Emile.

         MAXIME
Way down there, eh?

EMILE
You did dare say it. And good job!

Luc smiles at both of them.

The cunning thief and his friend, CLAUDE RAISON, 38, a hulking man, approach Paul.

         CUNNING THIEF
I overheard your little arrangement
with Monsieur Girard. You should extend
that courtesy to all your patrons.
Claude here has a lovely poem he’d like
to read, about his beloved Annabelle.
         CLAUDE
(drunk, slurring his words)
She isshh, isshh, the most beautiful
woman in all of Paris.

Paul grabs an ax handle from behind the counter and waves it in front of Claude’s face as he speaks.

         PAUL
No, this is not how things work here.
         CUNNING THIEF
Obviously it is. You let Monsieur
Girard do it.
         PAUL
And I have known him for many years.

Paul glances at the bar to get the bartender’s attention.

         PAUL
He performs here regularly and you
can even find one of his poems framed
and on the wall.
         CUNNING THIEF
I heard your deal. It’s only fair that
you extend it to everyone.
         PAUL
(waving the ax handle)
No, no, no.

Claude sucker punches Paul in the face, dropping him to the floor, and turns to the three locals and Bernhard.

Luc, Maxime and Emile leap back, terrified.

Bernhard quickly grabs the ax handle that Paul dropped and brings it down hard on Claude’s back.

Claude stumbles forward but doesn’t go down.

The thief pulls out a knife and stabs Bernhard in his side.

Bernhard cries out in pain and swings the ax handle at the thief, shattering his jawbone, dropping him to the floor.

Bernhard stumbles over to the bar and leans against it, clutching his side.

The bartender sees the fracas, runs over with his ax handle and hits Claude with it. Claude falls to the floor.

A crowd, including Paul with a red, swollen cheek, Luc, Emile and Maxime, gathers around Bernhard.

         PAUL
(to the bartender)
Round up my wagon, hurry!
         PAUL (cont’d)
(to Bernhard)
Don’t worry, we’ll get you to
the hospital. You’ll be fine.
         BERNHARD
I, I’m a bit light-headed.

He starts to slide along the bar.

Emile and Maxime grab him.

          EMILE
Let’s get him outside.
          LUC
Step aside everyone, step aside!
Make way for the savior of the
Cabaret de Neptune! Make way!