A Month of Free Outdoor Movies at Paris’s Cinéma en Plein Air
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A Month of Free Outdoor Movies at Paris’s Cinéma en Plein Air

Cinema En Plein Air
Daniel Thierry

This Wednesday, July 22, marks the 25th anniversary of the brilliant Cinéma en Plein Air festival in the Parc de la Villette, the mega-park in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The event consists of a month of movies screened on Wednesday through Sunday nights. Entry is free, but it’s $8 to rent a folding-back chair (money well spent, as it makes hours spent sitting on the grass much more comfortable).

All films are shown in their original languages with French subtitles. The programming this year is themed around the home—whether that home be haunted (The Shining, Beetlejuice), wished-for (Inside Llewyn Davis) or the scene of a nightmare marriage (The Curse of the Golden Flower). The show starts when the sun goes down, which in late summer means 9 p.m.-ish.

Let this festival be yet another reason to put the Parc de la Villette on your radar. Even if it doesn’t have the natural splendor of the Bois de Boulogne, or the Beaux Arts pomp of the Jardin de Luxembourg, the park is a fascinating symbol of Paris in its late 1980s utopian heyday, under President François Mitterand.

He commissioned it on the site of massive slaughterhouses built by Napoleon III, and it became home to one of the largest concentrations of cultural foundations in town. Among the institutions based in there are the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Europe’s largest science museum; the Zénith concert stadium; the Cité de la Musique museum; and the Philharmonie de Paris.

Parc de la Villette also has the ever-so-Parisian distinction of counting the late philosopher Jacques Derrida, who consulted for park architect Bernard Tschumi, as one of its founding fathers. One wonders if the post-structuralist had anything to do with the creation of 26 bright red mini-pavilions, which were originally intended for Parisians to use as free, creative spaces, but have mostly been locked shut since. A new head of the park and its satellite institutions, Didier Fusillier, vows to restore them to their intended, citizen-friendly glory, though one has a hard time imagining a Parisian claiming one for their yoga practice, as Fusillier has suggested.

Alexandra Marshall is a contributing editor and the Paris correspondent at Travel & Leisure. Food, design, architecture and fashion are her specialties, which means, living in Paris, that she is very busy. Follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.

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