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Paris Underground Cinema

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Paris Underground Cinema2004-09-12 23:21
10 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Interesting mentions at BoingBoing here and here about an underground cinema in Paris. Guardian story here. Now, this is underground in the actual sense of under the ground. A group of urban explorers called La Mexicaine de la Perforation is on a mission to "reclaim and transform disused city spaces for the creation of zones of expression for free and independent art". I.e. they poke around in places they're not supposed to poke, and find interesting facilities that often not even the city authorities know about. And then they stage events there, like rock concerts or film projection. Ha, splendid venture.
The cinema, with restaurant and bar annexe, was open for a seven-week season this summer, showing a suitably subversive programme which included works by Chinese and Korean directors but also Alex Proyas' Dark City, Coppola's Rumble Fish, David Lynch's Eraserhead, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

It was constructed in a series of interconnected caves totalling some 400 square metres beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine from the Eiffel tower. Former quarries, they were partly refurbished during the 1900 Universal Exposition when one of the galleries was clad with concrete to represent a future Channel tunnel and a wall was artfully terraced.

But the caves were sealed off for the last time at least 20 years ago and subsequently "ceased to exist officially", Lazar said. "We knew them well because we used them to get into the Palais de Chaillot every Bastille Day. The roof is the perfect place from which to watch the fireworks."

Indeed most of the LMDP's underground happenings are organised in places the city authorities are not aware of, he added. "There are so many underground networks - the quarries, the metro, the collective heating, the electricity, the sewers - and each is the responsibility of a different bureaucracy," he said.

"Urban explorers are the only people who, between us, know it all. We move between each network. We know where they link up - often, it's us who made the link. The authorities, the police, town hall, they don't know a hundredth, a thousandth, of what's down there."
Now they're in a little bit of trouble, because the police found the cinema. But they can't quite figure out what to charge anybody with. Maybe stealing electricity, but they can't even figure out where the electricity came from. And they're not sure who to charge either. And the organizers aren't worried, as there are plenty of other unused spaces where nobody's looking. Indeed, seems like there is:
Parts of the French capital are riddled with around 250 kilometres (150 miles) of underground tunnels, some of them dating from mediaeval times, and adepts who call themselves "cataphiles" are known to frequent them illegally and occasionally decorate galleries to hold parties or meetings.
Some more good info and links from here. And there are many sites about the catacombs of Paris, like this in French. The catacombs are mostly spaces left over from underground quarries, which then were connected together in the 18th century, and some of which were filled up with bones from decommissioned graveyards.


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10 comments

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