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September 7, 2012 | Theatre,

Check out these films, books & music related to Paris Commune!

By Corrie Glanville


The following films will be showing in the Bright Family Screening Room at ArtsEmerson in September. Check out the schedule here!

La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000)

Directed by Peter Watkins, this docudrama is crafted as a historical re-enactment in the style of a documentary, which was shot in a mere 13 days in an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Paris. Using a mainly non-professional cast, many of whom knew nothing about the Commune, the actors did much of their own research for the massive project, which runs over five hours in its uncut version. In the spirit of the Commune, Watkins has said he wanted the actors “to reflect on the links between the events of the Commune and society today. In this way, we were asking the cast to contribute directly to the manner of telling their own history.”


Babette’s Feast (1987)

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, this jewel from Denmark is based on a short story by Isak Dinesen, who also wrote Out of Africa. When Babette, a refugee from the post-Paris Commune massacre arrives on the doorstep of two pious sisters in a Danish village, they take her in as a housekeeper where she works for many years. When Babette wins the lottery, the sisters assume she will return to Paris, but instead she cooks them a most remarkable feast that changes all of their lives.

The New Babylon (1929)

Though lesser known today than Sergei Eisenstein, film historians managed to rescue the brilliant, silent masterpiece The New Babylon in 1929 made by Soviet filmmakers Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg. A revolutionary epic set during the Paris Commune of 1871, the story follows the encounter between a shop girl and a soldier and the tragic fate of two lovers separated by the barricades. With an original musical score written for it by Dimitri Shostakovich, this is a rare gem for the film lover.

Plus, don’t miss the screening on Friday, September 14 at 6PM…join producer of the restoration (and re-synchronized!) print Mark Pytel and Paris Commune creators Michael Friedman and Steven Cosson for a discussion after the film.



The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71  (2007) & The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne

Celebrated British journalist and historian, Sir Alistair Horne is known for his immensely readable histories of France. Now back in print, The Fall of Paris is the perfect companion to understanding the forces that led to the rise and fall of the Paris Commune that according to Library Journal is “rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.” For a longer perspective, Horne’s The Seven Ages of Paris traces the history of the City of Lights beginning in the 12th century and ending with the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1969 that The New York Times called “constantly bewitching.”

Unruly Women of Paris: Images of the Commune by Gay Gullickson (1996)

While women played a significant role in the Paris Commune, the newspapers of 19th century Europe often portrayed the female communards as “petroleuses,” accusing them of setting fire to Paris in the final battle of the Commune. Author Gay Gullickson explores the images created by the media, arguing that such cartoons heavily influenced public perception and condemnation of the Communards. In this definitive illustrated study, Gullickson maintains that such gender stereotypes profoundly affected women well into the 20th century.




Fire on the Mountain by Terry Bisson (1988)

In his 1988 novel, Terry Bisson explores an alternate historical reality in a portrait of the United States as it might have been if revolutionary abolitionist John Brown had succeeded in his raid on Harper’s Ferry and subsequently set off a slave rebellion in pre-Civil War America.  In Bisson’s universe, the Paris Commune wins out instead of being crushed, Ireland overcomes British rule, and the Russian Revolution is just one of many similar revolutions in different countries in this riveting work of science fiction.


Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2010)

As one of the founding members of The Civilians, Michael Friedman has also achieved success as a composer on Broadway with his unusual take on our seventh president. The utterly magnetic Benjamin Walker portrays Andrew Jackson’s rise and fall set against an infectious emo-rock score. The raw, dangerous energy of Friedman’s score prompted Ben Brantley to proclaim “its attitude is too intensely felt to be only ironic. ‘Bloody’ may be a hoot, but it’s also a primal holler.” Don’t miss Boston’s SpeakEasy Stage Company’s own production of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson starting October 19!

Le Temps Des Cerises: Yves Montand (2007)

Le Temps des Cerises, or “the Cherries of Spring,” which opens and closes The Civilians’ Paris Commune was written in France in 1866 with words by Jean-Baptiste Clément and music by Antoine Renard. For anyone wishing to revisit classic French songs, try this two disc collection by beloved crooner, Yves Montand. Discovered by Edith Piaf in 1944, who became his mentor and eventually his lover, Montand became a hugely successful singer and movie star, culminating in a poignant performance when he was in his late 60s in the two-part masterpiece Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources.

Edith Piaf: Platinum Collection (2008)

It would be difficult to construct a recommendation list related to Paris and not include one of its brightest stars, Edith Piaf, though I confess I knew very little of her life before I saw the mesmerizing 2007 film La Vie en Rose. But once you hear her unmistakable voice, you are hooked for life. This three-disc collection will not disappoint any Piaf fan; with over 40 remastered songs, it includes “La Vie En Rose,” “Les Trois Cloches,” “Mon Dieu” and “C’est L’amour.”



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