Anyone who has taken Paris’ Métro Ligne 2 eastbound will likely know the Palais-Louxor cinema well. It is the first thing that catches your eye as the tracks rise up from beneath the city to become the overground and you emerge into the
fresh air faintly toxic haze of Barbès-Rochechouart; a stunningly unique slab of Egyptian art deco style on the corner of Boulevard de Magenta and Boulevard de La Chapelle at a point where three arrondissements and countless displaced cultures meet.
With its cigarette-hawking Marlboro men, brazen daytime drug dealing and higher-than-average levels of petty crime, Barbès has earned itself a somewhat shady reputation. The Palais-Louxor however rises majestically above it all, a symbol of the tenacious community spirit that assured the cinema’s continued existence and prevails in spite of social and financial hardship. The Louxor, for its part, has stayed true to its mission of working to dispel the unfavourable stereotypes that have attached themselves to the quartier, its proud owners investing both time and energy into projects which highlight the many positive attributes of a diverse and lively Parisian neighbourhood.
The building itself has formed an intrinsic part of the Barbès backdrop since its construction in 1921, falling into disrepair after housing Paris’ largest gay club in the 1980s before being restored to its former glory and reopened as a cinema in 2013. It originally boasted all the usual suspects of ancient Egyptian architectural cliché; immense pillars, sarcophagi and hieroglyphics as ubiquitous as ticket stubs and spilled popcorn, the unashamedly kitsch design appealing to trendy Parisians of the 1920s who found themselves caught up in the Egyptomania sweeping post war Europe. There are less fedoras blocking the view these days and movie scores are piped through powerful digital speakers rather than being played from the pit by a full live orchestra, as was once the case. Regardless of these changes the place still manages to retain a great deal of its old world charm, Pharaoh busts and wings of Horus adorning the colourful walls and a wine bar with a vast terrace offering unobstructed views of Montmartre and the Sacre-Coeur.
The Louxor shows a range of films and styles as varied and eclectic as the inhabitants of the neighbourhood in which it is located, with a particular focus on African cinema as well as regular classes and workshops focused on providing the younger generation with productive and interesting ways in which to spend their downtime. Anyone who has a passion for film or simply holds a particular movie close to their heart will understand the potential of cinema to bring people together and bridge divides. Whether or not the redemptive power of the silver screen succeeds in healing the wounds of this bustling Parisian community, it has something to be proud of in the Palais-Louxor.