Tuesday, October 11, 2005


In the past two and a half weeks, in spite of all the complications and headaches one generally encounters when moving to a new city (let alone to a new country) as well as a brief trip to Spain, I’ve managed to go to the movies five times. Since my arrival, I’ve seen The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Roman Holiday, A Streetcar Named Desire, All About Eve, and the previously reviewed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I saw each of them on film, projected onto a big screen in movie theaters unlike most you’d find in America. The seats were large, soft, and comfortable, I didn’t have to watch a half hour of commercials before each feature, and, even with the exchange rate working against me, my tickets cost me far less than they would have in the States.

Although I liked some more than others – I loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (as my faithful readers already know) and Roman Holiday, really liked The Beat That My Heart Skipped, but didn’t enjoy Streetcar and Eve as much as I had hoped – I always found the experience incredible. Not only did I find the magic of cinema – all but hacked to pieces by American movie theater giants like Loews, Clearview, and Sony – entirely restored, but, to my delight, I found I wasn’t alone. Back at home, if a movie theater was screening a black and white classic like Roman Holiday, attendance would be dismal; I would find myself with a handful of people at most: a mix of elderly loners nostalgic for the movies of their youth, maybe one young couple on what they thought was a novel idea for a date, and a few cinema nerds such as myself. Here, however, even when I went in the middle of the day – as I did yesterday when I saw All About Eve – there was a line outside and, although the theater was by no means full (people do have to work, after all), there was a very impressive showing.

The question, then, is are there so many great movie theaters in Paris because there are so many interested moviegoers or are there so many moviegoers because there are so many great movie theaters? Movie theaters here receive some financial support from the government, allowing them to keep ticket prices fairly low, so I can’t say that it’s only demand that allows for so many repertory theaters (and there are a lot of them, especially in the Latin Quarter where there’s such a tight concentration that you can often find two or three on the same block), but that certainly factors into it, or else they wouldn’t survive. Maybe growing up in such a cinema-heavy environment just breeds a movie-going urge into the populace, or maybe the whole industry relies upon film nerd transplants like me. Either way – at the risk of sounding schmaltzy – even though I don’t speak the language as well or know as many people as I would like, I can’t help but feel somewhat at home.

This afternoon, before attending the first meeting of my Asian cinema class, I’m going to the movies again. I’ll be watching Luis Buñuel’s Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie, a favorite of mine from film class last year. Unlike the other movies I’ve seen here thus far, I’ve seen Le Charme Discret a number of times, but I’m excited to see it in this new context: the environment that created, encouraged, and ultimately brought it to me across the Atlantic Ocean. In a way, it’s as if an old friend is taking me to his hometown to show me where he grew up.


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