After Friday night’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, major cinema chains and art-houses shuttered for the day on Saturday with word they would remain closed through Sunday at least. While the Gaumont-Pathé circuit did remain closed today, both UGC and MK2 said via social media that they were opening their doors. Le Grand Rex, a giant atmospheric movie palace not far from the scene of much of Friday’s carnage, also re-opened today.
Checking in with Parisian friends late Friday night as we marked ourselves “safe” on Facebook, shared messages and changed our profile pictures in support of France, the sense was that no one wanted to leave their homes much less go to the cinema.
But today, the sun came out in Paris and the sentiment appears to have shifted. Originally from New Jersey, I’ve made my home in France for over 21 years and spent 17 of them in Paris. I live in the south now, but Paris is truly a moveable feast and I know that this weekend more than ever, I carry it with me. I’ve a sense I’d want to be out today, a sunny day in Paris can make anything seem possible. Although we’ve never had a movie theater shooting on the scale of Aurora, Colorado, I’m not certain I’d want to be at the movies.
Yet, the ability to while away a day or evening outside sipping wine and talking with friends; and the possibility of going to the movies at whim — from Bringing Up Baby to the latest Hollywood blockbuster – have always seemed to me to be among the unassailable rights of living in Paris. And that’s especially true of a Sunday when for a long time, before laws started bending to allow shops to open, those were the only choices. Those pasttimes were gravely threatened Friday.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, streets were deserted as the mayor’s office encouraged people not to leave their homes. Today, while large gatherings in the city have been banned through Thursday, there were more people out and about, and friends say they are keen for diversion. One, who lives around the corner from Le Petit Cambodge, says, “Yes, definitely go to the movies.” Another, a distribution exec, tells me there the streets are more crowded, but adds he’s not sure about going to the cinema. “I think more than anything people are going to spend time with family and friends — and enjoy the beautiful weather.”
Paris and the rest of the country remain in mourning; and there are no words to express how deeply felt these events have been. I’ve visited and then lived here long enough to remember the September bombings of 1986; the Christmas 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969; the metro bombings of 1995; the March 2012 shootings in Toulouse and Montauban; and of course this past January’s massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and the ensuing hostage crises.
Friday, Paris endured the biggest day of violence seen since World War II. At least 129 people are dead – many of them young. The Twitter hashtag #RechercheParis, which people are using to post photos and details of those still missing after the attacks, is simply heartbreaking to read. And there are still hundreds more injured.
France and the rest of the world will never be the same. As Americans know only too well, after 9/11 it’s impossible to look at terrorist attacks through any other prism. A studio executive said to me yesterday, “This is France’s 9/11” and it does feel that way.
As anyone who’s lived here for an extended period can tell you, France, and especially Paris, can be difficult to navigate: The red tape is notorious, customer service hasn’t yet hit these shores, taxi drivers are routinely miserable and the clash of cultures can be challenging. And yet, France has one of the greatest capabilities to come together in solidarity at good times and bad. When tragedy struck in January, we all joined hands. In the south where I live, we held vigils in village squares and observed the minutes of silence under Nous Sommes Charlie banners. In Paris, citizens, tourists and world leaders marched en masse in a stunning show of strength from the Place de la République.
So now what do we do? Last night about two hundred people gathered at République and many have traveled to the Bataclan concert venue to lay flowers. But marches for now are banned. We’ll have a minute of silence tomorrow where you’ll be able to hear a pin drop throughout the country, I can assure you. As the investigations progress and politicians continue to meet to discuss responses, the rest of us now have to pull ourselves together and move forward. No one seems to know right now how long that will take, but a French producer friend says, “People have understood that this is a battle of civilizations so we’re going to go out more, drink more, sing more, eat more and screw more!!!!”
Perhaps that’s a bit exaggerated, and the theaters today and for several days will certainly not run to capacity. But perhaps a move in the healing process is to at least have the possibility of going to the movies; it lends a sense of normalcy to a Sunday.