LYON – Housing what looks like Europe’s first silent film cinema and making over Paris’ historic Gaumont Gobelins, the newly-sited Jerome-Seydoux-Pathe Foundation will open its doors to the public in spring 2014.
Blending a unique program of silent movies in a site whose façade retains sculptures by a young Auguste Rodin, the Foundation looks like rapidly becoming a landmark not only in Paris but also on Europe’s building classics films scene.
Designed by architect Renzo Piano, whose more recent works include the Nemo Science Center in Amsterdam, the Pathe Foundation will house a screening room, two exhibition floors and a research department, decked out above by a striking blue wood-and-glass shell-like roof.
Including a piano, the 70-seat screening room will project both digital and 35mm prints, Pathe Foundation president Sophie Seydoux said in Lyon Tuesday at the 2013 Lumiere Festival, where she presented with Jerome Seydoux restored prints of Marcel L’Herbier’s 1934 “Le Bonheur,” with Charles Boyer and Gaby Morlay, and Yves Allegret’s 1949 doomed love tale “Such a Pretty Little Beach.”
“My idea is to have, say, two weeks on a theme or an author, with screenings, like in the old times, beginning with a news reel, afterwards a cartoon, and then the movie,” Seydoux added.
Shown digitalized, or in a very good condition – “I won’t necessarily wait until films are digitalized, Seydoux said – movies will screen one weekday, plus Saturday in 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. sessions.
Seasons may pick up on directors’ early sound movies as well.
Seydoux explained: With ‘Les Miserables,’ for instance, I’d show the four silent versions and then Raymond Bernard’s 1934 version. It’s a principle that interests me: To straddle the transition from silent films to talkies.”
The Foundation will also use crowd-screening, playing movies requested by the public via Internet, chosen out of a series of films offered by the Foundation.
One floor will exhibit Pathe cameras from the early 1900s through to the 1970s. “The Foundation will be visited by school parties. It’s important to show children how cameras worked, what was celluloid, because pretty soon they won’t know about celluloid film,” Seydoux said.
A wall by the screening room will display documentation from Pathe productions. Straddling two floors, the Foundation’s research center will allow researchers to view at least 700 Pathe films on desktops. Pathe documentation include company production accounts and board meeting records reaching back to 1896 in a level of detail which few if any other film company in Europe can rival.
The Pathe Foundation will sit opposite the far-larger Gaumont Gobelins Fauvette which Pathe aims to re-open as a brand new cinema specializing in film restorations in general running through to prints from Martin Scorsese films and even early Quentin Tarantino movies.
“The Foundation will be different, focusing on silent cinema and a company research center, which hasn’t been done before,” Seydoux said.
Scott Foundas contributed to this report