Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

The greatest thing about Paris


Everybody loves Paris for different reasons. I’d guess most people like the art or the food or the fashion. Some might opt for the light or the architecture or the general ambiance of romance or loucheness. What I really love about the city is the movie theaters.

If you’ve ever lived in a Real City, you might have experienced something like this.* Every week, there are dozens of old movies playing all over the city. (To be fair, they are mostly playing near la Sorbonne in the 5è and 6è, an area filled with students and expats, but not exclusively.) You can check out the list of only English language movies and see what you’re missing out on, but if you love all kinds of movies, there are too many wonderful places to sit and worship at the celluloid altar, though the cathedral of cinéma is a good place to start.

Some of my favorite moments from the past year include:

→ Seeing FIGHT CLUB on the big screen again and hearing French people love the idea of space monkeys too.
→ Watching GOODFELLAS and hearing a young couple gasp and poke each other as actors they recognized from THE SOPRANOS came onscreen.
→ Hearing people titter during VERTIGO, highlighting both how old-fashioned and how sexually perverted it was.
The time I saw BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and you could hear people smiling practically during the whole thing.

But the best moment for me (so far), a highlight of the last five years of my life really, was seeing GREMLINS on the big screen for the first time in my life at the end of December. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, you may need reminding that, along with DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON, GREMLINS is one of the great Christmas movies of all time.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

It’s another one of those movies that I’ve seen a million times and I quote it all the time but seeing it projected bigger than I ever had made it so much funnier and scarier and more impressive. The effects, which were mostly practical / in-camera ones (not computer-generated) still looked great and were convincing as hell.

But the best part of this best moment was an older French guy who was guffawing at all the xenophobic comments Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller), the hero’s grumpy old neighbor, makes. I’ve always been a big fan of Mr. Futterman’s character but it was so great to hear the very people he was railing against laugh at him. It made me crazy happy to see that we, the foreigners Futterman hated so much, got to have the last laugh.

And that’s what Christmas is all about.

* The only Real Cities of my connaisance are New York and London. Not even Boston counts, as much as I love it, since the only good old movie houses were all by Harvard which is in Cambridge. I was a member of the Brattle Theatre (the cult of Humphrey Bogart was born there), so I still went over the Charles, but I didn’t like it.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

9 thoughts on “The greatest thing about Paris

  1. I would LOVE to see Goodfellas on the big screen–our DVD copy is so old you have to turn it over halfway through (it starts again with Karen Hill’s epic buzzer rant about Janice Rossi living in 2R).

    Aside from New York, Philadelphia and New Haven have pretty decent cinema cultures too: The Ritz theaters aren’t completely independent anymore, but they are allowed to run as such so they always get a good mix of art house and more popular titles, and New Haven’s Criterion has a long-running tradition of showing classics on the weekends either at brunch (with mimosas) or late at night. And even where I live now has a pretty nice non-profit theater that will feature classics as well as art-house films.

    • Ha! I had that R1 Goodfellas DVD too! Even at the time, I was like, “This is bs. I shouldn’t have to get up to flip the disc.” Plus, it got scratched really easily. I was happy to get a “special edition” R2 version recently that’s got the movie on 1 disc.

      And the thing that’s extraordinary (for me) about Paris is that they show old movies at regular theaters too. UGC, a big chain here, runs a series called UGC Cult which recently did retrospectives of Brain De Palma, Hitchcock and David Lynch, all playing alongside the latest releases. It’s something else to go to your nearest cinema and have a choice between Hollywood movie, French movie, other European movie and Classic cinema. I’ve never experienced anything like this and it’s THE BEST.

      (Not the best: the Criterion Collection people don’t release DVDs in R2. This is way uncool of them.)

    • Also, Janet Rossi is a whore!

  2. Oh! And the Museum of New York will be opening an exhibit later this month on the Guastavino tiling, which automatically made me think of you: http://www.mcny.org/exhibition/palaces-for-the-people-guastavino

    If you’re able to make it back to New York anytime soon, it’s running until the 7th of September. I’m definitely going to check it out as soon as I can.

    • And this show looks super cool! The (Catalan) Oyster Bar! If I don’t make it back before then, I’ll certainly mention it to my fam and encourage them to go. Like many New Yorkers, they’re too busy working most of the time to do fun things, but the M of NY is right off the Park, so maybe they can make a day of it.

      (I saw some totally weird exhibits there in November and decided that it’s a place worth regularly checking out. Very interesting curators at work there…)

  3. I lived in Paris for 8 years… as a tourist it’s O.K!:-) we’ve never regretted it, ’cause Toulouse rules and rocks!:-)
    * * *
    I’ve just noticed you’ve liked my feline post… muchas gracias!:-)

  4. You were here for eight years and consider yourself a tourist?!

  5. I’m very sorry, but I cannot quite understand why BARCELONA is not a “Real City”?
    Very happy to be informed!

    • I explain at the asterisk at the bottom. There isn’t a wide selection of movies, old / foreign / classic, playing all the time in BCN, certainly not in VO. It’s a feature I really love and appreciate in a city, almost as much as good public transport, which BCN generally has.

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