From the American Center to the Cinémathèque Française
From the American Center to the Cinémathèque Française
Monday, December 5, 2005
Creative Writing Workshop
This one week intensive writing workshop will take place in a charming medieval village, a stunning setting that offers both stimulation for the senses and traquility. The course includes daily writing exercises, critiques, craft talks and readings, plus participants will have the opportunity to interact with writers living and working in Italy. But space is limited — maximum 12 participants.
The cost of the workshop, including hotel with private room, three meals daily, plus two excursions is only $1,500 U.S. Register and pay by January 1, 2006 and receive a $200 discount — only $1,300 U.S.! Register today!
For more information and to register, contact Cecilia Woloch at [email protected]
Dear Parler Paris Reader,
I can vaguely remember when there really was an “American Center” in Paris. It was located on boulevard Raspail where the Fondation Cartier now stands. Author of “French Toast” and “French Fried,” Harriet Welty Rochefort, wrote that it “…was a magic place where you could enjoy the best of American culture (films, dance, jazz, etc…), learn English, meet American students, eat a real hamburger (years ago, it was one of the few places in Paris where you could).” Unfortunately for the American community, that building was sold and destroyed and the Fondation Cartier was erected, designed by well-known French architect, Jean Nouvel.
I frequent the Fondation Cartier often for its fun and fabulous exhibits. At present, Ron Mueck’s startlingly realistic, out-of-scale figures, and John Maeda’s seven “motion paintings” make impressive shows worth seeing (on through February 19th). The building itself is worth a visit, too, even though it pains me to see it for sentimental reasons. (Fondation Cartier, 261, boulevard Raspail, 14th, open every day except Monday from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., +33 (0) 18.104.22.168.50.)
Like a void needing to be filled, the American Center later moved to 51 rue de Bercy (12th) in a building designed by U.S. architect Frank Gehry. Gehry’s whimsical structures were often in my peripheral vision…his giant binoculars on Main Street in Venice (Los Angeles), California, designed in 1991, that anchor the Chiat/Day Advertising Agency West Coast headquarters always evoked an “only in L.A.” comment. Then later, he designed what I still believe to be the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen — the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles that was inaugurated in October of 2003. It compelled me to take dozens of photos, each one turned out more stunning than the next.
Unfortunately, the American Center in Bercy, whose mission was to support cultural, educational, and artistic activities, was shut down in January of 1996, only 19 months after it opened, due to lack of funds. The $41 million price tag posed an enormous financial burden on the Center, but the Center’s leadership gambled that this new, high-profile facility would attract renewed interest and donations. The location was a bit futuristic for the time, even with the The Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy just up the street. The American community simply wasn’t flocking to this unknown part of Paris and once again, the American community lost its “home base.”
Purchased by the Centre National du Cinéma, part of the French Ministry of Culture, for $21 million in 1998, it reopened as the “Cinémathèque Française” to house the Maison du Cinema, a film library and theaters. It owns 40,000 films, as well as cinema-related objects, including 2000 actors’ costumes in its collection. The Film Library stocks drawings, photographs, press reviews and other types of publication relating to cinema.
And now’s your chance to fully discover the American Center turned Cinémathèque Française through the eyes of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his cinematographer son, Jean, by visiting the current exhibit Renoir/Renoir (in association with the Musée d’Orsay, on until January 9th). No one denies the beauty and richness of the father’s pastel-colored paintings, mostly portraits with some landscapes interrupted by human interlopers. You will recognize so many from the walls of the Musée d’Orsay that perhaps you had already fallen in love with…but what is most enlightening is the juxtaposition of the son’s films to his father’s images…how they mirror one another!
While on the one hand it would be easy to feel the loss of a foundation for the American community, on the other, we are enriched with a new cultural venue, designed by an American architect who makes his mark wherever he goes. It will be impossible to forget that the structure that now promotes French cinema has been and always will be in our minds, “The American Center.”
A la prochaine…
P.S. Mark your calendar for next Tuesday 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. when we gather together at Parler Paris Après Midi! See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more details.
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