Natalie Portman, Jackie, and the Balzac movie theater


I went here today, to the Balzac, to see the new movie, Jackie. 

What I liked about the film: first and foremost, Portman’s performance. In one word, outstanding. She carried the entire film from beginning to end. Through that beautiful face of hers, and her Jackie voice and body language, she conveyed to us the full range of Jackie emotions in the four days following her husband’s assassination. Secondly, I loved the cinematography: it was gorgeously filmed and soundtracked. Oh, and the interiors are exquisite, as are some of the clothes Portman wears.

But for a movie so big and visually beautiful, I came away not feeling much, don’t know why. Was it because the actor playing Robert F. Kennedy was disappointingly insipid? (in real life, he was so charismatic.) Was it because, it seemed to me, that Jackie was portrayed as sort of a nutcase after her husband was killed? Well, who wouldn’t be a nutcase after cradling your husband’s blown-off head in your lap in the back of a speeding convertible?? Or was it because, as a politiphile, I wanted more substance relating to the politics of that era – or even the gossip and scandals, there were enough of them – during Kennedy’s too-brief presidency? But all this is my opinion. See the movie for yourself, you’ll love it.

Located on a quiet sidestreet (rue Balzac) running off the Champs Elysees, the Balzac is one of the last independent movie houses in Paris. While other independent cinemas have been closing, one after the other, due to rising rents and dwindling attendance, Le Balzac seems to be keeping its head above water. I noticed today that it receives funding from the BNP Paribas bank.

“The whole ambiance — the deep red carpets, the comfortable seats, the clean curves of the room, the glimmer from the modern art-deco light fixtures — creates a special atmosphere of cozy sumptuousness. Even though the cinema is just steps off the beaten tourist track, there’s nothing of the commercial atmosphere that reigns over the other movie theaters on the Champs Elysees. It’s a space truly dedicated to the Seventh art.”

I like the retro feel and the espresso bar in the small lobby (no popcorn here.)

The driving force behind the success of this movie house is Jean-Jacques Schpoliansky, a passionate cinephile who took over the business from his father who, in turn, had taken over the business from his father. Sometimes Mr. Schpoliansky makes an appearance on the stage and introduces the film to the audience. How cool is that? His team also organizes jazz and classical music concerts every Saturday night before the first screening, monthly opera nights (glass of champagne included), puppet shows and storytelling hours for children, and other events that you can view on their website:

2 thoughts on “Natalie Portman, Jackie, and the Balzac movie theater

  1. Thanks for this, Juliet. I look forward to seeing the movie. Not at the Balzac, alas! Keep up the good work; love your interesting posts.

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