Fest a metro feast for cinephiles

French capital is star of Festival Paris Cinema

PARIS — The name still has an ungainly ring to it, but the Festival Paris Cinema recently underwent a successful makeover. Now in its sixth year, the annual Parisian film fest (July 1-12), was conceived by the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, to encompass the entire French capital. The only problem: Many visitors had no idea where the festival began and where it ended.

Some much-needed coherency was provided last year when the fest’s organizers at Paris’ City Hall halved the number of available screens and gave the fest a central hub: the Marin Karmitz-owned MK2 Bibliotheque multiplex in Paris’ 13th arrondissement.

“We chose the MK2 Bibliotheque because it’s very modern and easy to get to from all parts of Paris,” says the fest’s general delegate, Aude Hesbert. “That’s where we’re now holding our international competition, as well as the Paris Project.”

The results were instantaneous: Even with only half the number of screens available, the same number of people (70,000) turned up last year as did the year before.

“I think people liked the idea that they could have a point to set off from,” says actress Charlotte Rampling, who is now in her third year as festival president. “We needed a place where people could arrange to meet because with the festival spread out all over Paris it wasn’t very coherent.”

The festival, which attracts a high number of cinephiles, has a budget of $2.3 million (60% of which is financed by the Town Hall) and benefits by being held just a few weeks after the Cannes Film Festival: Many of the pics screening over the 10 days (about half of which have English subtitles) have already premiered at Cannes, including this year’s opener, Laurent Cantet’s “The Class,” which won the Palme d’Or.

“I like to think we complement Cannes,” Hesbert says. “We have a lot of films that screened at Cannes but have not yet been released in France.”

Film historian and journalist N.T. Binh, who curated popular exhibition “Paris on Film” at Paris Town Hall two years ago, agrees there is no real overlap of interests. “Festival Paris Cinema has a different ambition to Cannes, which is really to link its film festival to the city of Paris. At Cannes, it’s not so much about the city as about the stars; it could very well take place somewhere else,” Binh says. “It’s not the same kind of deal as a festival like Rome, which set itself up to be a direct competitor with Venice.”

This year’s competition lineup is typically eclectic, with several first films, including American Stephen Walker’s documentary “Young@Heart,” Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf’s “Milky Way” and Filipino director Jim Libiran’s “Tribu.”

“Myself and a lot of friends from the industry like to go to the Paris festival because there’s always something there for everyone’s tastes,” Binh says. “It’s also all about going to see films in Paris. The festival introduces you not only to some great filmmakers but some of the capital’s cinemas you might not know so well.”

July 1-12
Where: Paris
Web: pariscinema.org

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