Ray Charles Ft. In Envoyé Spécial (1996)
Envoyé Spécial was a 43m20s documentary about Jean-Pierre Grosz, and his working relationship – and friendship – with Ray Charles. The program was first aired by France 2 on 15 May 1996. Source here. Also read this.
I found an automated (French to English) translation from the description of this documentary in the INA archive (ID CAB96020392). It’s clear that a bit of drama was added to the script. Some edited highlights:
- Jean-Pierre Grosz, a locksmith working in the district of Montmartre in Paris, maintained a long friendship with the American singer Ray Charles before the latter suggested to produce Strong Love Affair. This fairy tale began 19 years ago (on January 29th, 1979, Jan-Pierre’s birthday) when Charles promised him that one day he would produce one of his albums.
- Various shots in black and white of Ray Charles; music clip: Say No More.
- Shot of the back of Ray’s car (license plate RC 923), parked in front of RPM Studios.
- Semi CU of Ray’s legs, walking a bit unsurely in a corridor.
- Ray feeling the pieces of a chess set with his hands.
- Interview: Ray answers the question why he chose a French producer: he is not interested in the nationality of people; what counts for him is if he can communicate with someone. He doesn’t have to see Jean Pierre, he can imagine him.
- Shots of Ray’s office, with a plan board scheduling Ray’s annual 320 concerts.
- Ray preparing some coffee, showing that he knows how to manage things alone.
- Interview: he can do everything; he only regrets he can’t drive.
- Scene from the commercial where Ray drives a Peugeot 306 (“the clip realized without special effects”).
- Shot of the “very secret studio”, Ray mixing music (“only he is authorized to do this”).
- Ray and Jean-Pierre side by side in front of the mixing desk: a “very excited Grosz” dries his forehead. Ray explains why he is disappointed: it is necessary to have something to say in a sad song. They listen to another take of the song. Ray likes it. “Both men dance”.
- Ray searching for a cassette on a shelf, not finding it. He shows his concern: to lose something is a disaster because without help, he can’t find anything.
- Interior of the safe where Charles keeps all his recordings: woman helping him to open drawers; Grosz, Charles and woman looking for the cassette. They find it.
- Grosz says that all tapes are in safe boxes, to protect them against fire.
- Interview in the recording studio: while laughing a lot, Ray explains that he does not consider himself to be a songwriter, although he has had a lot of success with his own songs. He had to put 3 days in composing Hallelujah I Love You So, which he considered as way too long.
- Ray and Jean-Pierre dancing while listening to some music in the recording studio.
- Ray, Jean-Pierre and unidentified other people leaving the building (in V.O. the journalist explains that they do not know where they go).
- Interview with Ray before he gets into his car. He knows the color of his car. He can still imagine all basic colors because he lost his sight when he was seven.
- Shot of the back of the car, going to a hospital.
- Woman welcoming the singer by saying to him that the person with whom he has a meeting is waiting for him.
- Shots of room: Ray Charles waiting for the mother of a girl whose operation he financed “so that she is not deaf any more”. Arrival of the smiling and happy mother (she did not know who financed the 20,000 Francs. The girl is carried by her father. She is very shy but smiles in the end.
- Interview. For Ray hearing is more important than seeing. If he lost his hearing, he would die. Through our ears we are more in touch with the world, a child has a better chance in life if he/she can hear (understand).
- The family and Ray embrace each other before leaving.
- Ray in front of a door with a broken key inside the lock. Grosz meets another locksmith. Both locksmiths speaking about their profession.
- The lock is repaired, Ray can finally enter the room, where he seizes a vintage bottle of champagne.
After compiling the text above, I’ve seen the whole – very charming – documentary. The contents of the last part of the film are missing in the INA description above. These entailed scenes from a trip to Washington, footage from a private (small-symphony) concert performed there, and a very funny interview immediately after that concert. Ray totally lost it after the interviewer confronted him with the fact that there were no blacks in the audience. After drying his tears, he takes his time to explain that the typical audience of these private concerts only exists of millionaires, and that it’s a fact of life that there simply are no black millionaires… with the exception, maybe, of… Ray Charles (followed by more hilarious laughter).
Grosz also wrote a book about their remarkable adventures: Ray, mon ami(Paris, 2005).