Let’s say that it’s a cloudy, rainy day (for a change) in Paris, and you don’t know what to do. I say, go to the Forum des Images, the massive film archive in the bowels of the Forum des Halles where for five euros you can watch films until your eyes go buggy. I usually avoid the Forum des Halles at all costs—riding the escalator down into that claustrophobic underground shopping center generally feels like a descent into the lower reaches of Hell. But out in one of the outer tunnels of this giant ant farm there is a stretch of cine-mania that merits braving the depths of this 1970s architectural nightmare.
First there is your conventional movie multiplex, offering recent films. Then there is the new François Truffaut library, where Parisians can check out books and DVDs and other less fortunate mortals can peruse mountains of material on-site. And then there is the Forum des Images, which recently reopened in groovy shades of pink and white and black. The initial mission of this archive was the “preservation of the audiovisual memory of the city of Paris,” whereby any film that made any reference to the capital was stored in its ample database. This translates into 5,500 films, documentaries, shorts, and even newsreels and advertisements. Gone With the Wind made it in because at one point Rhett brings Scarlett a hat from Paris.