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Travel to Paris


La Pagode, Paris

1 May 2014

Neha Kale meets the people running historic movie theatres

Unfolding on the banks of the River Gauche and lined with candlelit bistros, pocket-sized florists and Eiffel Tower vistas, Paris’ seventh arrondissement is an exercise in Gallic fantasy. However, nothing sums up the neighbourhood’s ability to transport you to another realm quite like La Pagode, a Japanese-inspired cinema that was built by the director of the city’s Bon Marche department store as a gift to his wife in 1895. 

The movie theatre, which features gilt dragon sculptures, intricate ceiling frescos and red velvet seating, also represents an Asian spin on the typical Parisian art house – although it screened early works by French New Wave masters such as Jean Cocteau in the 1960s, it also host premieres by directors visiting from Japan. 

“We regularly feature Japanese cinema along with films by art house directors such as Pedro Almodóvar and David Cronenberg,” explains Marie Durand, director of events and partnerships at Etoile Cinemas, La Pagode’s operator. “And we also premiere local films such as Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!, which stars French theatre actor Guillaume Gallienne.” 

But a history of championing some of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers is only one explanation for La Pagode’s role in Paris screen culture. Durand says that the cinema regularly holds master-classes with directors such as Robert Bresson, along with a cinema club that includes movies and debates based on important cultural moments. Tired of the intellectual stimulation? You can always sip rose tea in the theatre’s miniature Oriental garden. 

For Durand, La Pagode’s silver screen credentials come second to the sense of escape promised by the cinema’s Japanese Room, an otherworldly viewing space adorned with chandeliers, stained glass windows and tapestries. “Every time you visit the Japanese Room, you can’t help but marvel at a new detail – whether it’s a new animal on a painting on the wall or a sculpture near the door,” Durand says. “Even if you’ve been visiting the cinema for ten years, it takes you by surprise every time.” 




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