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15.7.04

Film in Paris

One thing is certain: you will never lack for cultural things to do in Paris. I have not even mentioned the cinema here since my arrival, but I’m several days behind in writing about all the things I’ve seen, so the Paris posts will continue for some time. Right now, the city of Paris is hosting the second year of its film festival, Paris Cinéma, which began on June 30 and will conclude on July 13, just before I leave. I picked up the program while seeing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Max Linder Panorama (24, boulevard Poissonière, in the 9th). More about that another time. The festival’s program bears a short introduction from Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris (as I wrote yesterday, each arrondissement has a mayor, but over them is one official, the Maire de Paris).

This new festival is described as a balade estivale (summer walk), featuring 400 films in 30 cinemas (including the Max Linder, a true Paris cinematic institution), all around Paris, which anyone can see for the price of 4€, under half the cost of a normal full-price ticket these days, and only 3€ for children under 12. Costa-Gavras is the president of the festival, and actor Jean-Paul Belmondo helped to officiate at the opening ceremony. Le cinéma d’aujourd’hui focuses on films of our own time, including a series of films from recent international festivals. The Forum des Images, based here in Paris, held its own festival, Les Rencontres internationales de cinéma à Paris from July 2 to 11, and there is a series on experimental films from the Collectif Jeune Cinéma and PointLignePlan.

Le cinéma de toujours presents great films of the past, including a series at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés (off the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in the 6th) on Jean-Paul Belmondo, le Magnifique, he of the ultrawide cigarettes in the classic À bout de souffle (1959), directed by Jean-Luc Godard on a screenplay by François Truffaut. Other series feature American director Oliver Stone, Argentine director Fernando Solanas, Korean director Chung Chang-wha, French actress Karin Viard, French director Claude Sautet, Chinese films (part of the Année de la Chine, mentioned in a previous post), musical comedies from Hollywood to Bollywood, European documentaries (including series on French director Agnès Varda and Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski), rock and cinema, films on Paris from the Cinémathèque Française, and a series of "unforgettable French films shown with English subtitles." I hope that the target audience for that last one, English-speaking tourists who descend on Paris in the summer, took advantage of it. The program is presented first in French, and then partially in English, but I didn't actually get a copy until after being in Paris several days and going out of my way to obtain it. Next year, they should hand these things directly to tourists as they get off planes at the airports. What really made the festival a success last summer were the projections en plein air, in which films are shown on huge outdoor screens in the Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville (the Paris town hall, in the 4th) and in the Senate Gardens (by the Jardin du Luxembourg, in the 6th). There are also some hosted walks on themes taken from cinematic greats shot in Paris.

If that has left your head spinning, it will only get worse when you hear that the Cinémathèque Française is also showing two special program of films this summer, in addition to its participation in Paris Cinéma: Révisons nos classiques (Let’s re-examine our classics, at the Palais de Chaillot) and Vive les vacances! (Long live vacation!, at the Grands Boulevards), both from June 30 to September 5. The first series takes up the long-held mission of the Cinémathèque Française, from the time of Langlois, to keep the classics of cinematic history alive by showing them, and its importance to young directors living in Paris for many years, like Truffaut and many others, makes all of their efforts worthwhile. In 1998, a fire endangered the home of the Cinémathèque Française, in the Palais de Chaillot (7, avenue Albert-de-Mun, in the 16th), although the other base of operations, in the 10th (42, boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle), not far from the Max Linder and that other great Paris cinema, Le Grand Rex (1, boulevard Poissonière), was not affected. According to the introduction to their program, by general director Serge Toubiana, the Cinémathèque Française will move its employees and its precious library to a new building in Bercy in the coming months. Their new home, built by (who else?) Frank Gehry, will open to the public in September 2005.

Both programs are filled with great movies, some of which I have seen, but a shocking number I have not seen or even heard of before. This must have been a difficult process to select a program of classics, and I will be getting as many of these films into my Netflix queue as I can. The second program, on the theme of vacation, is more light-hearted (National Lampoon’s Vacation and Les Bronzés font du ski appear alongside Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse and Jean Renoir’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe). If you think your vacation was ruined this year, consider that Jaws, Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Dead Calm are all, technically, vacation movies and, yes, they are on the program. So, just when I think I have gone too far in filling up every waking hour here with things to see and hear, I always realize that I would need many more hours to see everything I want to, let alone everything that I could.

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