Pretty much a required destination for cinephiles visiting the city of light, the Cinémathèque Française Film Center and Museum is dedicated to all things celluloid, past and present. Housed in a building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry which is noteworthy in its own right, the Cinémathèque includes a film museum with a permanent exhibit exploring cinema throughout its short but vibrant history, and also hosts frequent temporary exhibits paying homage to specific film directors, national film traditions or periods.
Regular Retrospectives on Classic Directors and Genres:
The center's screening rooms are host to multiple retrospectives on classic films and directors, and the program also highlights up-and-coming directors and actors. The cinematheque also includes a film library where scholars and curious cinephiles browse a large collection of film posters, stills, photographs, and of course books and reviews. In short, if you're interested in film history and especially French cinema, reserve some time for an afternoon or two at the Cinémathèque.
Location and Contact Information:
The Cinémathèque is located in the 12th arrondissement (district) of Paris, south of the Seine River and not far from the surprisingly contemporary, burgeoning National Library District. It's also in close reach of lesser-known (but lovely) outdoor attractions such as the Parc de Bercy and Promenade Plantee, a romantic walkway constructed over a defunct railway line.
51 rue de Bercy
Metro: Bercy (line 6 or 14)
Tel : +33 (0)1 71 19 33 33
Opening Hours and Tickets:
Center and Cinemas: Monday through Sunday. Closed Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st. Cinema ticket counter opens daily at 12:00 pm (10:00 am on Sundays).
Cinema Museum Opening Times: The museum is open from Monday through Saturday from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Sundays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Closed on Tuesdays, December 25th January 1st and May 1st.
Cinema Library Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; Saturday from 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Closed Tuesday, Sunday and on French bank holidays.
Tickets: Admission to the permanent collections and displays is free of charge for all visitors. Entry prices vary for temporary exhibits: call ahead. Entry to temporary exhibitions is free for visitors 13 and under.
Sights and Attractions Nearby the Cinematheque:
- The National Library District
- Promenade Plantee and the Viaduc des Arts (great for a stroll)
- The Bastille/Gare de Lyon Neighborhood
- Butte aux Cailles Neighborhood
The Cinematheque has a lot to offer, so if you want to get the full experience in, I suggest allocating an entire afternoon to exploring the permanent and temporary exhibits at the film museum, followed perhaps by a screening.
A veritable treasure trove of objects and archives related to celluloid history, the permanent collection at the Cinematheque features hundreds of artifacts.
The museum traces the history of film through the development of magic lanterns and optical instruments, showing how burgeoning new technologies in the 19th century led, eventually, to the innovations that would make moving film possible. The legacies of film pioneers such as the Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès are explored in this history.
Other noteworthy sections of the museum display legendary costumes, collections of scripts, notes and drawings, film posters, and other artifacts. Scenes from films which marked celluloid history are played throughout-- from Hitchcock to Fritz Lang, Charlie Chaplin or Francois Truffaut. Temporary exhibits have recently focused on Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Stanley Kubrick, and Jacques Tati.
Go here to download a free and complete audioguide (in English) exploring the collections at the film museum.
Screenings and Retrospectives at the Cinemathèque:
The center hosts dozens of retrospectives and thematic film programs each year, often in tandem with temporary exhibits at the museum focusing on a particular film director, genre, period or national cinematic heritage. See the current program here (in French only).