Cinema en Plein Air

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Cinema en Plein Air
  Americans may have invented the drive-thru, but ever since the Lumiere brothers’ first film screening, cinema en plein air has been a French specialty. This summer is no different, and the city of Paris is satisfying cineastes’ desires with a round of films from all over the world at the Parc de la Villette. A recent screening of the American classic, The Grapes of Wrath – or, in the slightly more ridiculous French translation, Raisins de la Colère – brought hundreds of people out to the Villette’s broad lawn despite the slightly chilly weather. Most came prepared with blankets, wine, and, of course, deliciously smelling baguettes whose odor at times made me feel almost as hungry at the Joad family was on screen. Some even opted for impressive full meals, and the quiet rumble of casual conversation drowned out almost any other noise. There was a hush, though, as a huge white inflatable bubble rose into the darkening sky and assumed the shape of a vast film screen. To set the mood, it glowed fuchsia, then neon green for twenty more minutes before surrendering to the opening credits of the film. Despite the sheer numbers of people in the park it wasn’t hard to lose oneself completely in the struggles of the Joad family. The giant screen and great acoustics almost forced the story onto the audience, but when one did pull oneself away, the effect was indescribable – an enormous plain crammed full of people, eyes all directed in one direction, light from the screen flashing in a synchronized motion across their faces. This week promises even more great films, starting with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accatone, which is considered one of the most pivotal films of the Italian surrealist movement, on Tuesday, the 21st before the series finishes off with two American films: Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst, and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. As is typically of all too many French public events, these aren’t scheduled for any particular time. Film screenings begin as soon as it is deemed dark enough, and getting there early is always a good idea. Sometime after 9 p.m. should be a safe bet to find that perfect spot and settle down with your picnic.  
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