Cinema en Plein Air

Paris is home to a wealth of new and old cinematic wonders. In 1895 the first ever public film screening was shown in the capital, and an archive of classics are set here; A bout de soufflé, Before Sunrise and Amélie are three in a long list of Parisian movie treats. The Cinémathèque Francaise hosts regular director’s retrospectives and has an archive of over 40,000 films, whilst more than 300 films are screened each week in the city.

Adding to this movie Mecca is ‘cinema en plein air’, a free outdoor film festival, now in its twentieth year. To celebrate this milestone, the theme of this year’s outdoor cinematic festivities is ‘Being Twenty’. Every night until the 22nd of August (excluding Mondays) the Parc de la Villette will be projecting films from around the world onto a vast inflatable screen. These films explore the plethora of emotions that come with being two decades old: the thrills, uncertainties, freedoms, angst, and burgeoning responsibilities that swamp you as you decide the direction your life will take.

The festival was launched on the 17th of July, and I have already been along to enjoy two pictures under the open skies. The sound of Simon and Garfunkel filled the park on the Sunday evening I went to watch ‘The Graduate’, whilst females of all ages swooned over Johnny Depp in the 1989 flick ‘Cry Baby’.

Soon to be projected are the movies Juno, Persepolis, Girl With A Suitcase, Going Places, Grease and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This diverse array of films document violence, pregnancy, sexual awakening, isolation and of course a very famous makeover, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy, although check suitability beforehand. Films do not begin until the sunsets, at around 10.30. Gatherings of friends, families and lovers head down early with baskets filled to the brim with the tried and tested picnic staples of bread, cheese and wine. It is a lovely sight to behold a park full of jovial chattering as the sun goes down, the perfect summer evening as crowds share their food and their thoughts, and then an almost childlike excitement sets in just before the movie begins. Finally the stars come out, and a hush sets in as hundreds share a film centred around youth. There are a few people in the crowds who still have the age of twenty to look forward to (or fear) but for the most part, there is an overwhelming sense of the reminiscent, a celebration of days spent. Once the credits roll, it is chatter once again as the crowd come to their verdict on the film.

Cinema en Plein Air has achieved that rare thing: at twenty years old it knows the direction it is taking and there is no angst or uncertainty here. Simply good films under the Parisian skies.


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