Surprises await you at the Balzac Cinema just off the Champs Elysées. On a recent Saturday night showing to watch a version originale (V.O.) film – popular especially among ex-pats — we were handed a programme which suggested that we were at a music concert, and not the cinema to watch a V.O. film. Indeed, a piano and a music stand were placed on center stage.
We confirmed with the doorman that we were indeed at the showing of “An Education,” the V.O. film we had booked. When the “shorts” started, I popped out to the rather up-market-looking bar in the foyer and got two tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to enjoy during the showing. However, when I returned to the cinema there was a man standing at the front of the stage with a microphone announcing that, in addition to a truly fine film, we were about to enjoy a pre-cinema concert from Alphonse Cemin (piano) and Louis Rodde (cello), who would be playing Bartok. We put our Ben and Jerry’s tub on the floor – as the house lights remained partly on and munching Vanilla Toffee Brittle and Chunky Monkey didn’t seem quite right amongst this rather serious, well-heeled 8th arrondissement audience. Sure enough, the two young artists took the stage and a fine 30-minute concert proceeded to take place.
At the end of the performance, the cinema owner took the microphone again and spoke about the Balzac’s commitment to independent cinema and providing that little bit extra for its patrons. The audience applauded, the house lights dropped, and the movie rolled. Luckily, the Ben and Jerry’s had been rock hard when we bought it, so it stood up well to the half hour delay.
So, all in all, it was a very pleasant night’s entertainment all for the price of a movie ticket (9€) and some ice cream. the Balzac’s website shows that the man at the microphone was the owner of the Balzac, Jean-Jacques Schpoliansky, who has been running the cinema, originally opened in 1935 by his grandfather, for the past 35 years. The website explains that the Saturday night showing each week is preceded by a short concert from musicians of the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris. There is also a club des amis du Balzac, and in addition to the “ciné-concerts” that we happened upon, there are a host of other special events such as film festivals, soirées gourmandes, debates, Sunday brunch showings and special musical Sunday showings for kids. I think we are going to join (50€/person or 80€/couple). An additional plus: the most comfortable seats we have had at the cinema for a long time.
*Victoria Hallum shares her experience as edited by Anna Lise Kvan
Address: 1 rue Balzac, 75008
Métro: George V, line 1 or Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, lines 1, 2, 6 and RER A
Tel: 01 45 61 10 60
Films of the week: http://www.cinemabalzac.com/public/affiche/film_semaine.php