Sunday, my last full day in Paris, found me in the morning waiting on line in the rain to enter the Musee d’Orsay, where a Van Gogh exhibit awaited.
It was the last day of the exhibit, so I’m glad I got to see it even though I had to wait on line a second time inside the museum to see it. I’ve seen Van Gogh paintings before, but not so many of them in one exhibit–and in Paris where most of these paintings originally found their home! No photography was allowed in the exhibit, so I didn’t get any shots, but here’s a famous one that was included:
Later, on another visit to the Videosphere, up the block from my hotel, I saw this DVD:
English title: LUST FOR LIFE (1956), starring Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh, directed by Vincente Minnelli and still my favorite movie about an artist.
Among other titles spotted at the Videosphere, ANGEL FACE, starring Robert Mitchum, is visible on this display case devoted to Hollywood classics:
…while just a few feet away, I found this title:
I had never heard of it before, but a search on IMDB reveals that it’s a French “road movie” from 2010, with no familiar names attached to it (familiar to me, that is), and described this way:
“Franky, an unemployed actor, is carried away by his manager Arsène, in a stolen car for what seems to be an appointment with Franky’s idolized director above the Arctic Circle.”
No clue as to how the “Robert Mitchum is dead” reference is worked into the film.
I was curious about the availability of French animation in this store, so I checked out that section and found quite a few TinTin titles, including these:
(That’s ASTERIX AND CLEOPATRA, 1968, on the right, from another long-running, popular series of French animated films.)
I’ve been interested in the early TinTin animated features and TV series, from the 1950s and ’60s, so I wondered if these might be from that era. I asked the friendly bilingual clerk and she looked them up for me and determined that they were from the 1991 TV series, which happens to be already available in an English dub.
This one looked intriguing and I took note of it:
Little did I know that I’d be watching an episode of “Yakari” the next morning on my hotel TV:
A glimpse of the Mizoguchi shelf led to finding a pair of Japanese film classics that are unavailable in the U.S. on DVD:
THE TAIRA CLAN SAGA and PRINCESS YANG KWEI FEI, both from 1955, were Mizoguchi’s only films made in color and were two of his last three films. I have a code-free machine at home that will play discs that are Region 2 and in the PAL system, but did these discs have English subtitles? Sure enough, on the back it said “Sous-titres: francais, anglais.” English subs! So, at 17.80 Euros each, I bought them both.
The store also had various action figures, including these:
Another stroll around the hotel, on Sunday night, this time through the Latin Quarter, found me turning the corner on Quai St. Michel and encountering this unexpected sight:
That’s right, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. No Quasimodo in sight, but I did get to see these memorable gargoyles:
…including this rare human figure:
All at 9:00 PM at night!
A stroll through the adjacent Latin Quarter revealed some previously undiscovered movie theaters.
The Cinema Le Champo was showing a John Ford series.
That night, at 9:30 PM, minutes away from when I took this picture, they’d be showing THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT, a lesser-known Ford film from 1953 that I’ve seen before:
This was a low-budget production made at Republic Pictures and was a black-and-white remake of Ford’s 1934 Will Rogers movie, JUDGE PRIEST. It’s not often revived, but it has some distinction as, arguably, Ford’s most complex statement about race in America, a far cry from the easy stereotypes found in the movie it was revising. Stepin Fetchit plays the same role he’d played in the earlier film, but with a much greater weight of history on him. I recommend it, especially to those who are quick to pass judgment on Ford’s historical sensibilities.
I would like to have had the memory of seeing a John Ford film at a Paris theater but at the moment I’d been taking a walk to build up my appetite for a sit-down meal at an area restaurant and had gotten pretty hungry by this point. And it would be my first and only visit to a sit-down restaurant during my trip. Had I gone to the film, I would have had to pick up a snack beforehand and get some takeout food afterwards to take back to my hotel. So no film for me, but a nice bowl of duck soup at the Mandarin Sorbonne. (Why did I eat Chinese food at my only meal at a sit-down restaurant in Paris? Because I like Chinese food.)
The Cinema Le Champo was also showing a black-and-white Italian film from 1955:
Just look at that cast! The film was released in the U.S. as TOO BAD SHE’S BAD and was actually reviewed in The New York Times by Bosley Crowther on Christmas Eve, 1955:
Right up the block from Cinema Le Champo was the Reflet Medicis showing Whit Stillman’s METROPOLITAN (1990) and Ivan Passer’s CUTTER’S WAY (1981).
And right next door was La Filmotheque Quartier Latin:
…which was showing, among other films:
Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS (1973)
Sidney Lumet’s THE PAWNBROKER (1965)
Billy Wilder’s SABRINA (1954)
A Douglas Sirk bill of A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE (1958) and ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955)
John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976)
An Otto Preminger double bill of BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) and ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959)
Federico Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA (1960)
I’ve seen the majority of these films on the big screen, but THE PAWNBROKER only on broadcast TV and would love to have seen it there, but the showtimes weren’t possible for my schedule.
While Rock Hudson was appearing in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS at the Filmotheque, there was a documentary shown on the Arte channel on Sunday night called “Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger” (2010) which featured interviews in English that were drowned out by French voice-over translations, but it was filled with great footage and featured interviews with two of Hudson’s co-stars from SECONDS (1966), Richard Anderson and Salome Jens. And Hudson’s archival interview clips were shown in English with French subs.
The other highlights of French TV-watching in my hotel were:
“Little House on the Prairie,” dubbed in French:
“Scooby Doo,” dubbed in French:
And “Pokémon Black & White” dubbed in French:
…and it was airing at 10:00 PM at night! Either the kids stay up late in Paris or there are far more adult fans of Pokémon there than in the U.S.
My final film-related activity was a trip to a nearby used comic-book store:
Upon realizing I still hadn’t bought a gift for my daughter, I sought something appropriate and found these:
For myself, I found a 1968 movie tie-in edition of the French comic, “Barbarella,” by Jean-Claude Forest:
And when I got home to the Bronx, I put in my Blu ray of BARBARELLA to see the movie for the first time in many years. Suffused with the glow of nostalgia, it was fun for a while, but the comic energy and plot momentum weren’t sustained and were eventually overwhelmed by the costumes, makeup and production design, which, ultimately, seemed to be the raison d’etre of the film.
On my next trip there I’ll make time to actually see a classic American film on the big screen.
P.S. (7/22/14): By some wild coincidence, TCM is running ROBERT MITCHUM IS DEAD (see above) tonight at 6:45 PM (EST). I’ll be recording it and will get the chance to satisfy my curiosity about it.
P.P.S. (7/22/14): I spoke too soon. ROBERT MITCHUM IS DEAD was listed in the onscreen guide as well as in the TV schedule in the print edition of The New York Times, but that’s not what ran. Instead we got a 70-minute Dick Cavett interview with the actual Robert Mitchum, presumably from April 29, 1971. Still a good thing, but not the elusive French film I was hoping to see. Oh well…
P.P.P.S (7/25/14): LUST FOR LIFE ran on TCM last night and I was reminded that the Van Gogh painting I posted above is recreated in the film as Van Gogh is shown in the act of creating it, with Everett Sloane playing the subject of the portrait, Dr. Gachet: