There is barely another city that offers as much as Paris; there is no better city for cinephiles (but only for those who can reconcile with the French language that is, naturally, prevailing). And the Pariscope, the little booklet of listings, is the key to it. It is published on Wednesdays and it would cost you 40 cents to buy from any newspaper kiosk; it is also available from supermarkets and other stores.
The listings of cinema-related information run over about 60 pages, thus taking up about a quarter of the total 240 pages of the weekly Pariscope. The film section opens up with some 200-words highlights on new theatrical and DVD releases, followed by an alphabetical listing of all films playing during the week in Paris: It runs over three pages and includes about 250 titles. Then there are short revues of the dozen or so films that get released every week. This is followed by an exhaustive alphabetical listing of all these films with the respective capsule-reviews, and by special sections on Reprises (including various screenings of films of a range of earlier periods), Festivals (a section that features at least several events every week), the programme of the several cinematheques (the one in Bercy and of several more, located in the peripheries), and of screenings at various museums, cultural centres like Beaubourg and various other locations. The second major film section lists theatre schedules across all 20 arrondissements as well as across the suburbs, a complex task as many of the theatres change their programme once every two days and feature an array of special late night screenings, screenings for children, screenings of silents with musical accompaniment, and so on. With time you learn to know which cinemas feature the most interesting special events, and every week one can attend screenings where the filmmakers are present (e.g. Amos Gitai, Robert Guedigian) or where some famous critic runs a regular cine club or a series of presentations. It is not a knowledge that comes overnight, as there are at least thirty cinemas in Paris that can be described as specialized art house, and each one of them features original programming that is worth following closely.
The middle spread of Le Pariscope, p. 120-121, is for the average movie-goer: It is occupied by a table that includes the ratings of the most popular new films as rated by a selection of a dozen of French critics (not critics from art-house film magazines like Positif or Cahiers du cinema but those attached to newspapers or magazines such as Telerama; V. Gaucher and V. Gaillard are listed as Pariscope’s own critics), who assess about 20 films by assigning up to three stars. The spread also includes a listing of box office hits (throughout the particular period which I observed it was the French blockbuster Welcome to the Sticks that kept on top of the 20 listed titles, with more than three million tickets sold). At the bottom of the page there is another chart showing the current week’s hits at the box office.
I am mostly interested in its cinema listings, even though before you get to them you would browse through the theatrical and musical ones, followed by extensive listings of galleries and museum exhibits. There are also listings of restaurants, various other leisure pursuits, tours, promenades, receptions, gallery openings, and night life, and ending with the indispensable for such guides picture-accompanied ads of various escorts and related services. For cinephiles is interesting to browse through the theatre section in particular, as many French film actors regularly make theatrical appearances, and it is quite an ordinary thing to see actors of the caliber of Claude Brasseur, Jeanne Moureau or Isabelle Hupert life on the stage.
It is noteworthy that Le Pariscope does not have much on-line presence; a search for it takes you to some not particularly user-friendly web-site called Premiere, a heavily commercial one that is nothing like the lovely small booklet I am talking about. Both are owned and run by the same publishing empire, Hachette Filipacchi Medias. Media mogul, surrealist and jazz sponsor, and publisher Daniel Filipacchi (pictured here in 1958) is behind it all.
I do not know much of the history of Le Pariscope, and not much of the people who publish it today. From the editorial information at the end, it appears it is not even produced in central Paris but in the outer suburb of Nanterre. About 20 people are listed as working on it, with Virginie Gaucher responsible for cinema. No e-mail contacts are made available; everything is clearly channeled via phone or fax, yet the interesting thing is that they seem to take not only domestic but international subscriptions as well. Le Pariscope must be a profitable publication: at least I always parted with my 40 cents with pleasure, regarding it as money well spent, and indeed it would be a worthy thing to subscribe to, even if for the sake of dreaming for the variety of cinema that one can find in Paris while reading it.
© Dina Iordanova
11 November 2008