Society

Paris Art-House Cinema On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

Amid fierce competition in the global film capital, a big movie chain opens an art-house theater in Paris that raises questions about the feasibility of independent cinema itself.

Paris's Les Fauvettes art-house movie theater
Clarisse Fabre

PARIS â€" A new cinematic hub is emerging in Paris, along Avenue des Gobelins in the 13th arrondissement. It's not exactly Broadway, but insiders are keeping a close watch on the neighborhood for signs of the industry's future.

In early November, after extensive work, the Gaumont-Pathé cinema reopened in the area, and Les Fauvettes (formerly Gaumont Gobelins) has assigned five devoted theaters to restored films. That number will soon expand to 11 screens as part of a project of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation that aims to preserve films to educate young audiences.

Located between Place d'Italie and the Latin Quarter, the question is whether the shopping street at Les Gobelins will become the new place to go for moviegoers in the French capital, following the Halles in the city center and its conglomeration of shiny new cinemas that some have dubbed "ticket vacuum cleaners."

The imagery says a great deal about the industry's atmosphere in the capital: aggressive and highly competitive. Paris is now a full-fledged consumer city where even art-house films and original-language offerings are no longer confined to niche cinemas.

Theaters and multiplexes owned by the big chains project high-brow fare, which allows, for example, UGC's unlimited cardholders in Paris to see the latest from the likes of (Italy's) Nanni Moretti or (Spain's) Pedro Almodovar, or even the latest opus of the irreverent Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster.

More than 400 screens in Paris

Speaking of lobster, let's talk more about the claws of the big players in Paris. Gaumont-Pathé, UGC and MK2 are topping 85% of the capital's admissions, a figure confirmed by Michel Gomez, a Paris city official overseeing the film industry. "I don't know of any other business where there is no written contract," he says. "The promises that are made are not always fulfilled."

Old postcard of Paris's La Fauvette cinema â€" Source: Les Fauvettes official Facebook page

Paris officials recently set a condition for the expansion of the UGC Gobelins cinema: The movie theater must commit to preserving access to movies in the nearby art-house cinema room, L'Escurial. With over 400 screens and envied around the world as a mecca for cinema, the Parisian showcase is starting to crack. Is there still room for a newcomer?

Jerome Seydoux, owner of Les Fauvettes, is betting that there are spectators who will want to go to the theater to see cult movies, which already appear on television and the Internet. So the new cinema opened its doors with The Sucker (1965) directed by Gerard Oury, with Bourvil and Louis de Funes, which has already been broadcast on TV a dozen times since 1990, and gathered 5.7 million viewers when it was shown in 2013. Last month, Les Fauvettes featured the full lineup of Pixar movies, Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, and the cycle devoted to the Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai.

Vincent Paul Boncour, a pioneer in the distribution of restored movies, a director and co-founder of Carlotta Films, says Les Fauvettes might be a "prototype" that could be copied elsewhere. "It’s the first time that a chain is investing in a cinema dedicated to repertory movies," he says.

Still, he says, Paris is already home to "the unique programming of revival movies in the world." There are classic movie houses in the Latin Quarter (Le Champo, La Filmotheque, Grand Action), the Max Linder on the Grand Boulevards, the French Cinematheque at Bercy, the Forum des Images at the Halles.

Will Les Fauvettes undermine their standing? Concern is all the greater as the industry is facing the challenge of digital and television distribution. At the Filmotheque at Rue Champollion, close to the Sorbonne, father-and-son Jean-Max and François Causse are cautious about the big chains stepping into their corner of the market. "A movie brings in four to five times less at the box office than 30 years ago," says François Causse. "Perhaps Les Fauvettes will generate a new and less specialized audience who will then discover our films?"

The rocket's second stage

Some of the "indie" houses have begun to organize among themselves. Twenty-two institutions â€" totaling 39 screens â€" are already among the association of Independent Cinemas in Paris (CIP).

"Pluralism is what creates diversity," says Renaud Laville, general delegate of the French association of arthouse cinemas, which counts some 1,300 across France.

But simply casting the independent cinemas on one side of the fight and the chains on the other doesn't reflect the complexity of the situation, says Julien Rejl, head of Capricci distribution and vice president of the union of independent distributors.

"Certain specialized movies are often turned down because they don't find a place either in the arthouse cinemas or with the chains," Rejl says. "Sometimes, operators haven't even watched the movies. Of 12 or 13 movies released every week, there are four or five that everyone asks for. The offer in Paris has become standardized. We sometimes wonder if the films themselves are still at the heart of the programming."

Such is the brutal reality on display in the international capital of cinema.

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Thousands of Tunisians gathered in the capital of Tunis

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Monday, where post-Merkel Germany looks set shift to a center-left coalition, San Marino and Switzerland catch up with the rest of Europe on two key social issues, and a turtle slows things down at a Japan airport. Meanwhile, we take an international look at different ways to handle beloved, yet controversial, comic books and graphic novels characters.

[*Aymara, Bolivia]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Social Democrats narrowly win German elections: Germany's center-left party claimed a narrow victory in the federal election, beating the CDU party of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel by just over 1.5%, according to preliminary results. SPD leader Olaf Scholz has claimed a mandate to form a government with the Greens and Liberals, in what would be Germany's first three-way ruling coalition. Germany's capital city Berlin will also get its first female mayor.

Switzerland says yes to same-sex marriage: Nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters approved the proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in a referendum, making it one of the last countries in Western Europe to do so.

San Marino voters back legal abortion: More than 77% voted in support of legalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in San Marino in a historic referendum for the predominantly Catholic tiny city-state, which was one of the last places in Europe that still criminalized abortion.

COVID update: Australian authorities announced they will gradually reopen lockdowned Sydney, with a system that will give vaccinated citizens more freedom than the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, Thailand will waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and several other regions for vaccinated travellers in November. In Brazil, a fourth member of President Jair Bolsonaro's delegation to the United Nations has tested positive to COVID-19.

Power shortages in China spread: Tight coal supplies and toughening emissions standards have led to power shortages in northeastern China, forcing numerous factories including many supplying Apple and Tesla to halt production.

Strong earthquake hits Crete, at least one killed: An earthquake of magnitude 6 struck the Greek island of Crete, with reports that at least one person was killed and several injured after buildings collapsed.

Turtle causes delays at Tokyo airport: A wandering turtle forced the Tokyo Narita airport to close its runway for twelve minutes, delaying five planes, including an All Nippon Airways plane featuring ... a sea turtle-themed fuselage.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Neck and neck," titles German daily Augsburger Allgemeine about the tight results of the federal election, which according to preliminary results, is set to be won by the center-left party SPD led by Olaf Sholz by just over 1.5%. It was the country's tightest race in years, and will likely lead to long, complicated negotiations to form a coalition government.


💬  LEXICON

Magal

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims from Senegal, but also from elsewhere in Africa, Europe, and the United States, converged to the great Mosque of Touba, as part of the Grand Magal. The annual pilgrimage, a Wolof word meaning celebration, marks the date French colonial authorities exiled spiritual leader and founder of the Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood Sheikh Amadou Bamba.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Cancel Tintin? Spotting racist imagery in comics around the world

From the anti-Semitic children's books of Nazi Germany to the many racist caricatures of Asian, African or Indigenous people in the 20th century, comics have long contained prejudiced, sexist and xenophobic stereotypes. These publications have been rightfully criticized but some are pushing back, saying that this kind of unwarranted "canceling" threatens freedom of expression. Here are examples from three countries around the world about how people are handling the debate and sketching the future of comics.

🔥📚 The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix both emerged in French-speaking Europe during the 20th century and quickly developed global audiences. But the comic books have also been called out for controversial depictions of certain groups, including North American Indigenous peoples. And as Radio-Canada recently reported, one group of French-speaking schools in Ontario found the texts so offensive that they decided to go ahead and burn the books. The report, not surprisingly, stirred up a pretty fiery debate on the issues of free speech and what some refer to as "cancel culture."

🤠 In a more progressive model for rethinking cartoons with long — and complicated — legacies, Lucky Luke in France is taking a different direction. Telling the story of a cowboy in the Wild West, the series is notably lacking in terms of diversity. But in 2020, well-known French cartoonists Julien Berjeaut (known as Jul) and Hervé Darmenton (known as Achdé) took on the challenge of a more inclusive Lucky Luke. With its 81st album, Un Cow-Boy Dans Le Coton (A Cowboy in High Cotton), they changed the perspective to focus on recently freed Black slaves.

🇯🇵 Outside of France and Belgium, Japan arguably has the largest market for graphic novels, or manga, which first developed in the late 19th century. And like their European counterparts, certain manga titles have been accused of using racist tropes. One example is the character Mr. Popo, a genie from the popular Dragon Ball series who has been cited for having offensive features. In the meantime, more and more mangaka (creators of manga) are expanding beyond these traditional representations, including in their depictions of women, who are over-sexualized in many mangas.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Still now, I am terrified."

— In mid-August, Afghan news anchor Beheshta Arghand interviewed Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a high-ranking Taliban representative, for TOLOnews. A historic moment for the female presenter, just days after the Islamic fundamentalist group took over Afghanistan. Now exiled in Albania, Arghand tells the BBC in a moving testimony why she had to flee to Albania and how she, like many in her country, has lost everything.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin, Clémence Guimier & Bertrand Hauger


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