These are the last days of my research stay in Paris and I’m trying to get the most out of it, mainly in terms of visiting museums (the brand new and magnificent Fondation Luis Vuitton – in an overwhelming ‘sailing ship’ building by Frank Gehry, I discovered the touching work of Helene Schjerfbeck and enjoyed some classics, most notably some playful works of Picasso and the juxtaposition of Giacometti drawings with Bacon paintings –, the unavoidable Louvre – or at least its stunning Near Eastern collection – and yes, even the Eiffel Tower) and grabbing the many opportunities to attend special film screenings.
One highlight was the screening of Belgian director Gust Van den Berghe’s Lucifer, which I had missed during the Ghent Film Fest in October and which after a week of playing in a Ghent cinema was taken out of circulation, due to a commercial logic that doesn’t allow a film to grow any longer. But also in the cinephile city of Paris, the French première of the film couldn’t attract a full house, despite the attendance of the director himself, who provided an animated and insightful Q&A session. It’s a true pity, because although I found Lucifer a bit less compelling than Van den Berghe’s previous films, it still is a highly original, spiritual, intelligent and humoristic film.
Further, (although I had some unspoken suspicions before) I have officially declared the 1960s as my favorite period in film history after having watched the Brazilian Noite Vazia (1964, Walter Hugo Khouri) in the Cinémathèque, the extremely moving Il vangelo secondo Matteo (1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini) in the auditorium of the Louvre and three films of Michelangelo Antonioni in the Cinémathèque. Particularly watching Il deserto rosso was an unequalled emotional and esthetic expierence, not only because of Monica Vitti’s touching struggle with life, but also because of the countless superb industrial images – I have never seen such pollution depicted in such a beautiful way before.
The Antonioni screenings are accompanying the temporary exposition on the modernist Italian director at the Cinémathèque. It’s a very nice exposition, but after the preceding extremely revealing and encompassing exposition on François Truffaut, I had expected even more. I found the other temporary exposition on (mainly French) set decoration rather boring, but luckily, there’s always the permanent collection of the Cinémathèque, which again made me dream of those pioneering years in film history…