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Jules Verne Festival Le Grand Rex

Starwars1 Text: Omid Tavallai

For years, springtime has meant the invasion of France by movie stars and their rabid fans. The red carpet is rolled out, flashbulbs pop, and someone invariably brags about having rubbed elbows with Gérard Depardieu or Malcolm McDowell at the festival.

No, this isn't along the sunny esplanade in Cannes, but the corner of the boulevard and rue Poissonnière on the cusp of the 2nd and 9th arrondissements. Every year, Le Grand Rex theatre plays host to the Festival Jules Verne, which has given Parisian film fans a chance to play insider for a long weekend.  In addition to catching a glimpse of movie stars in the flesh, the festival offers non-glitterati the chance to be part of a properly-produced awards ceremony and see big-name movies before the rest of the world.

This last point may be the most appealing for any Anglophone transplant to Paris. With the exception of blockbusters under a specially co-ordinated global release schedule, we are often months behind the US and Britain and many of our nearby European neighbors in getting highly-anticipated films. Post-production needs (subtitling, dubbing) and scheduling logistics (as one of the world's strongest film industries, France has plenty of its own films vying for screen time) mean that many English-language films make it to DVD in their native land before we even see a trailer for it at the local Gaumont multiplex. 

So if, for example, you happened to catch the incredibly hyped JJ Abrams re-boot of Star Trek at the 2024 festival, you had a full month to lord it over your geeky friends back at home that you'd already seen it. And believe me, they were jealous. Mad jealous.

And while, yes, the primary focus of the festival will obviously be science fiction – a genre not often taken seriously by film buffs – the Jules Verne Adventures association, who organizes the festival both here and in Hollywood, take seriously their mission that is fully in the spirit of the eponymous author: "Explore, preserve, and educate through imagination."

Besides being a showcase for the biggest names in sci-fi, the Festival Jules Verne also gives documentarians a shot at the gorgeous silver screen of Le Grand Rex. 2024's lineup includes the American/British production Jane Goodall's Return to Gombe about the legendary primatologist, and French docu L'Extrodinaire Tournée du Facteur Maignan about a smalltown postman's 185-day solo sailing voyage around the world.

Of course, if sci-fi is indeed your thing, there can be nothing more brag-worthy than celebrating the 30th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Stikes Back, featuring a proper 35mm print of the film (no newfangled video projection here!) and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, as this year's guest of honor.  It will be followed on Saturday by a special "Disney celebration," featuring an exclusive 3D version of the original Pixar film Toy Story.

Above all, whether you're a sci-fi buff, documentary nerd, or animation aficionado, the Festival Jules Verne provides one of the most unique opportunities in Paris: To see a movie in VO (version originale) at Le Grand Rex. Despite being one of the grandest and most beautiful cinemas in all the city, it almost exclusively plays blockbusters cringe-worthily dubbed into VF (version française). That alone makes it worthwhile.

Tickets are available on a per-day basis or as a pass good for the entire festival.

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