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“French, Americans, Movies and Masters”

I missed seeing the Oscar’s last night, as I do every year living in Paris — that I’d have to be willing to stay up all night (the coverage starts at 1:30 a.m.) and have a subscription to cable TV channel Canal Plus, too. When I was living in Los Angeles, it was heresy to miss the event. “Tant pis,” it’s easy enough to log on to http://www.oscar.com/ and get the results.

The past two weeks have been a catch-up to see as many of the nominated films as possible. Unfortunately, “Million Dollar Baby” hasn’t opened here yet and when it does, it’s sure to pack every cinema. Happily, “Ray” had us dancing down the aisle and out the theater…pathetically, “Sideways” had us questioning why on earth it was nominated for anything at all.

The French are serious moviegoers. According to the CNS (Cinema News Service), cinema admissions in France were close to 200 million in 2004, more than 18% ahead of the previous year and breaking the record achieved in 2001.

We have both the Americans and the French to thank for our passion for cinema. American master inventor Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 and then commissioned Dickson, a young laboratory assistant, to invent a motion-picture camera in 1887. A shift in consciousness away from films as animated photographs to films as stories, or narratives, took place about the turn-of-the-century evident in the work of French filmmaker, Georges Méliès, who was later assisted by the industrialization of the French, more specifically by the Pathé Frères company, founded in 1896 by the former phonograph importer Charles Pathé. Multiple-reel films then appeared in the United States as early as 1907, when Adolph Zukor distributed Pathé’s three-reel “Passion Play.”

Today, La Cinémathèque Française closes its doors at the Palais de Chaillot and at its annex on the Grands Boulevards to reopen next Fall at 51, rue de Bercy (13th), with four projection rooms and 18000 square meters of exhibition space in the building designed by master American architect Frank O. Gehry as the (long ago defunct) American Center.

La Cinémathèque Française was founded in 1936 by Henri Langlois, Georges Franju, Paul-Auguste Harlé and Jean Mitry — a non-profit association with the mission to protect, conserve and present the patrimony of cinema, both French and foreign, in all its forms…films, scripts, set design, costume, equipment, etc., as well as its intellectual properties historically and esthetically. Last year, 115,000 people visited the sites, 1,200 films were shown to the public, 40,000 films were catalogued, 4,000 cameras and 1000 costumes were preserved, all by 90 employees.

This year, it finds it’s new home among our American ghosts. How prosaic.

For more information about this 70 year-old institution moving to this important American landmark, visit http://www.cinemathequefrancaise.com/

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Meeting other Americans in Paris is easy:

Parler Paris Après Midi March 8, 2005 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
/parlerparis/apresmidi.html

Parler Parlor French English Conversation Group 7th Anniversary Soup and Salad Lunch March 19, 2005 at 11 a.m.
http://www.parlerparlor.com/

And check Wednesday’s Parler Paris Previews for this week’s upcoming events for Anglophones or visit:
/parlerparis/calendar.html.html

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