Paris's best outdoor film festival: A guide

By Meg Zimbeck
October 3, 2012
Courtesy Meg Zimbeck

I firmly believe that Cinéma en Plein Air—one of the city's many free summer festivals—is one of Paris's Top 10 Free Events in July. I'm such a fan that I want to nudge twice and tell you how to make the most of this fun occasion.

Step 1: Choose your film. More power to those who speak French. They'll have access to the full program. But don't worry if you don't! There are a number of excellent English-language films on offer, including:

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg) July 21

Into the Wild (Sean Penn) July 25

Scarecrow (Jerry Schatzberg) July 28

Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmush) July 31

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee) August 1

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch) August 4

Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton) August 6

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones) August 8

In this World (Michael Winterbottom) August 13

About Schmidt (Alexander Payne) August 14

Amistad (Steven Spielberg) August 15

Step 2: Assemble your basket. For many, these films are little more the pretext for a picnic. I like to pick up fruit and wine from the small shops on the rue Eugène Jumin (near the eastern entrance of the Parc de la Villette). There's also a good Monop' at the corner of this street and the avenue Jean Jaurès. You'll find rows of ice cold rosé, along with cheese, sandwiches, salads, chips, sweets, and other snacking essentials. For the truly lazy, there's a McDonald's just outside the park and a kiosk with snacks and drinks inside.

Step 3: Strap on a strampontin. There's no admission fee to see the film, but you'll have to fork over €6.50 for the optional strampotin (lawn chair) and blanket. Save money by bringing your own blanket, but be warned that the temperature drops after sunset.

Step 4: Plan your exit. Depending on the time of sundown (a bit after 10 p.m.) and the length of the film, some showings will last well past midnight. The Paris Métro stops running south from this point around 12:30 a.m. on weeknights (Friday/Saturday are an hour later). If your film runs later, you may be facing a long walk or a cab ride home. Those opting for a cab should leave the park a few minutes early if they hope to hail one before the hordes arrive.

The Cinéma en Plein Air festival runs every night at sundown from July 15 to August 15 (Parc de la Villette, 211 avenue Jean Jaurès, 19th arrondissement). Entry is free.

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Paris pizza buzz: Pink Flamingo

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Photos of Rome's street artists

Creative expression in Rome isn't limited to museums and churches. It's out in the open, if you know what to look for and where. We sent photoblogger Jessica Stewart out to capture street art's various incarnations—stencils, graffiti, chalk drawings, even break-dancing. Check out the results in our slide show. Stewart moved to Rome four years ago, after completing degrees in art history and Renaissance studies, and began posting at RomePhotoBlog. Her photographs are on display through July 31 at Al Vino Al Vino (via dei Serpenti 19) and will be included in a show at Hobo Art Club (via Ascoli Piceno 3), September 11-25. I chatted with Stewart over pizza at Il Maratoneta in Rome's San Lorenzo neighborhood this spring and, more recently, traded emails to get her impressions of the evolving street art scene. What sparked your interest in street art, and when did you start photographing it? I'd always noticed stencils and posters around in the city, but my real interest started in February when shooting a series on San Lorenzo for my blog. It's an area where a lot of street artists work and afterward I noticed it became a strong theme for that shoot. From then I've been doing more and have gotten a chance to get to know many of the artists, which makes it all the more interesting. Where can tourists go to spot street art while in Rome, and what should they be looking for? All the artists I know are quite respectful of the city, so you won't be finding anything pasted up on the Colosseum—you need to go a bit off the beaten path. The neighborhoods of Trastevere, Pigneto, and San Lorenzo are all good bets for finding street art. Ostiense has some nice stuff as well, especially near the Garbatella metro station where there are many interesting painted murals, and the Jewish Ghetto has work by Sten and Lex, as well as stencils by the French artists C215. For tiny touches, check out the backs of street signs and bus stops, where many artists will place small stickers. Just keep your eyes peeled, as once you start looking you'll find examples everywhere. Now my friends (many of whom have lived here for years or are Romans) are seeing street art everywhere for the first time. It's been under their nose the whole time, but they hadn't noticed until someone pointed it out. How does street art in Rome compare with that of hubs like London, Berlin, or L.A.? What makes it uniquely Roman? I think that Rome street art is still very unknown, even in the city itself, and hasn't gotten nearly as commercial as in a lot of cities. A very small number of artists are making a name for themselves internationally already, but most are still emerging, which is really exciting. And I think the city is just starting to come around, with more events being organized and the founding of the gallery MondoPop, which features a lot of street artists, right near the Spanish Steps has brought even more legitimacy to the scene. As far as what makes it very Roman, I think you'll see a lot of pieces influenced by classic art, religion, and politics. Rome has centuries worth of masterpieces. How do you think that legacy rubs off on street artists? The influence is more obvious with some than others. The artist Lucamaleonte studied restoration here in Rome, and his pieces always remind me of the engravings or etchings of Albrecht Durer or Rembrandt. Mr. Klevra and Omino71's Byzantine-style Madonna and Child icons are other example of pieces that are influenced by the surroundings. But at the same time, I don't want to say that this is what every artist is looking at. Many, I think, subtly pay homage to Roman history, such as the Hogre stencil that with a date written on a beer bottle gives a nod to Allied bombings here in Rome in the 1940s. More often than not, however, I think people are creating their own styles. Artists have always commented on politics, religion, etc., so I think that isn't anything new. What I do think is that all the artists respect the city and are striving to express themselves outside of the established norms. How long has the Rome scene been around, is it changing, and what sort of community is there? As I understand it, around 2002, a small group began working more on stencils and posters. From there, the movement has grown, and I'm always struck by the diversity and talent I see here. There's a strong community of artists that has grown up around certain events and locations. The centro sociale Strike near Stazione Tiburtina is one haven, and certainly MondoPop's exhibits have brought people together, as well as the Stick My World exhibitions (begun by artist Omino71) that have given Roman artists more chances to work together. Some, like Sten, Lex, and Lucamaleonte work in a collective studio, while others often will go out together and paste up posters or work together on pieces. Do you have a favorite artist? I don't really have one absolute favorite, so if you don't mind, I'll give you a list of some favorites (in no particular order!). UNO, Hogre, 999, #, Lucamaleonte, Sten and Lex, Mr. Klevra, Omino71, Alice', Sone, Urka, and [X]. All completely different, but all very interesting and talented in their own ways. Most don't have websites, but almost everyone has an account on Flickr, which you should be able to find easily.


The Parisians are on vacation! Rent their apartments

French workers are blessed with six weeks of vacation a year, on average. Many of them take a full month off in late summer. Their good fortune is also yours. The reason? A good number of vacationing Parisians will try to sublet their apartments while off dallying in the Maldives. These exchanges happen first and foremost by word of mouth. Parisian party chat in early summer consists of "where are you going on holiday?" and "do you know anyone who wants to rent my apartment?" Twitter and Facebook are also increasingly being used to advertise apartment availability, i.e. "going 2 Bali rent my Aug apt 300 wk". If you have a local connection or participate in any Paris discussion groups, it's a good idea to make your vacation desires known. For those without a local friend, Craigslist is a great way to connect with departing Parisians. A glance at "sublets and temporary housing" today revealed about forty different listings for July and August. You can snag a one-bedroom in the Marais for €500 per week or a two-room studio along the Bassin de la Villette (my favorite 'hood) for €300 per week. Advantages: These informal exchanges are much cheaper than traditional short-term rentals, which are already much cheaper than hotels per night. You can generally stay a week for the same price as a couple of nights in a hotel. Apartments offer the possibility of cooking—or at least of morning coffee. They also offer a look "behind the curtain" at local life. Disadvantages: Unlike the short-term rentals that we've discussed in "Paris at a Price That's Right" and here, these are "real" and lived-in apartments, filled (for better or worse) with the occupant's stuff. That could mean a well-stocked gourmet kitchen and a library filled with interesting books. It could also mean clutter and bursting closets. Cleanliness varies. Some hosts will scrub their apartments, but most will do a quick tidy before heading out the door. They'll usually leave you with a contact number in case of emergency, but you'll otherwise be on your own. As mentioned in a previous blog post on Paris sublets, it's buyer beware with these informal agreements. I've had friends arrive at their holiday apartment to find somebody else already settled in. I've heard about travelers sending security deposits to people who subsequently disappeared. The best way to avoid trouble is to ask a lot of questions, trust your instincts, and avoid wiring any money. These warnings aside, informal rentals offer incredible value and a way for unfussy travelers to lengthen their stay in Paris. They also help the fortunate Parisians to order a few extra Piña Coladas during their holidays. Everybody wins. Let's hear now from you: What have been your experiences in renting apartments from Craigslist or similar websites? Any advice or strategies to share? OUR AFFORDABLE PARIS BLOG SERIES