After our first overview of the overlooked gems of the year, let's take a look together at the various joys and dissatisfactions of cinephilia in our respective city, your favourite places and events.
I feel extremely lucky to live in one of the most cinephile-friendly cities providing a rich variety of foreign cinema in so many art houses and multiplexes. With the brand new Cinémathèque Française, the Pompidou centre, the refurbished Forum des Images which all offer a perpetual cycle of retrospectives freed of the pressure of "take-the-money-and-run" profits, with a vast park of art houses (though cramped and shabby sometimes), with the various foreign cultural centres and the museum screenings, with the revival houses, with the mini-festivals or thematic weeks, with free open air screenings in the summer, with the cine-club debates and the public scholar conferences...Paris sets up the highest standards. It must be a cinephile heaven. Ironically my biggest frustration comes from all the films I'm missing every week, don't hate me for that. But I don't forget all the films never imported in France.
I used to think that a one-time screening was better than nothing, but like for Nitesh, the odd timing is one of my pet peeves, and it's especially annoying for film lovers with a busy life or living outside of a big city. So that's why we should also mention a new kind of cinephilia generated by DVDs and VODs.
But there is always something to complain about, and certainly the conditions could always improve. Paris is no exception and the commercialisation of art inevitably clouds up an ideal picture. For instance we don't host a major film festival, because Cannes is at the other extremity of the country.
While the average ticket price ranges from 8 to 10 euros and the arthouse circuit is largely supported by state subsidies (funded by a tax on all admissions!), exhibitors, big and small, incessantly compete for territories and beg for more regulations to prevent one screen from stealing the audience from the next one. A couple of theatre chains came up in recent years with a yearly pass equivalent to the price of 4 admissions per month giving free access to their screens anytime. And if it makes mainstream movie goers more adventurous to try lesser commercial movies without feeling robbed, it caused serious anti-trust worries for the individual art houses not protected by a wide circuit.
As you may know, the relatively small country that is France, in term of population and economy, only sustains a film industry of international stature we can't afford, thanks to subsidies at every level, from production (commission of loans to be repaid only in case of a successful B.O.) to exhibition (aids in case of art film screenings) and (mandatory) TV broadcasts. So basically, the TV networks and the multiplex crowd support the survival of our dear "cultural exception." Thus a dozen events around the year propose free screenings or value intensive tickets: like buy 1 get the second free over a weekend, or a 3 days all-you-can-watch buffet for €2 each after an initial full price admission, or a weekly festival pass for the price of 3 admissions. This is how film culture should ideally welcome the less fortunate viewers everywhere!