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Grand Lyon: Film feast for archivalists

Fest Traveler: Grand Lyon

While other spocket operas scramble for premieres, the Festival Lumiere — also known as the Grand Lyon Film Festival — is content to screen also-rans, some of them more than a century old. The event itself takes place in the eponymous French town where the Lumiere brothers shot their first moving pictures in the late 19th century, reflecting the spirit of the history-conscious confab.

The third edition of the cinephile feast again exclusively focuses on restored classics and retrospectives, with an impressive lineup of collateral events and guests. Last year’s fest sold an impressive 60,000 tickets, proving there’s no shortage of auds looking to discover oldie-but-goodies among the lineup’s many classics.

Organized by Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, which is headed (like the fest itself) by Gallic helmer Bertrand Tavernier and Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux, the sprocket opera allows the film archive to “expand and complement its events calendar and acquaint a much larger audience with the rationale behind the work of cinematheques and restorations,” Fremaux says.

The fest was created in 2009 because Lyon, “where cinema history started, didn’t have a festival yet, and a film-history event seemed appropriate,” explains Fremaux. “Cannes remains incomparable and unsurpassable. Lyon was conceived in a very different spirit. It’s a small and new festival, still searching for its identity.”

For the moment, the fest is mainly a national event with international guests, though Fremaux sees potential to turn Lumiere into “the international film-heritage rendezvous.”

This year, perhaps to underline the universality and wide reach of cinephilia, Lumiere hosts an homage to the Internet Movie Database and to amateur bloggers. Explains the Lumiere topper: “Without them and their anonymous passion for the movies, cinema wouldn’t be as popular today.”

Special retrospectives honor U.S. directors William Wellman (a favorite of Tavernier’s) and Roger Corman, the latter expected to attend a screening of Alex Stapleton’s docu “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel,” which also played Sundance and Cannes.

Though many films rep potential discoveries for auds, the Lumiere prexy singles out a restored version of “The Naked Island” by Japanese director Kaneto Shindo in particular. Pic will be presented in Lyon by “Che” star — and confessed cinephile — Benicio del Toro.

The fest’s Prix Lumiere goes to Gallic acting colossus Gerard Depardieu, whom Fremaux describes as “a poet and artist as well as an actor.” Getting Depardieu was a coup for the fest. “He doesn’t normally accept similar honors, so we’re very pleased,” Fremaux says. “After Clint Eastwood and Milos Forman, the level of Prix Lumiere honorees remains exceptional.”

Grand Lyon: Film feast for archivalists | Digital difference | To protect and preserve | Celluloid spotlight

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