In New York City, summer is not just a season, it’s a way of life.
It’s stretching your mouth open wide for a greasy Coney Island hotdog, strategically weaving through crowds to get a better view of the Macy’s fireworks show on Independence Day, and lying on blankets at outdoor movie screenings. But not just any movies. New Yorkers will only brave sitting in the heat for the stellar movies that you can’t find on Netflix or in air-conditioned theatres. During the summer, New Yorkers lounge in parks to watch films with subtitles, perhaps ones that feature a chanson by Edith Piaf, and to hear the murmur of “Paris” over and over again, whispered into the night. ‘Tis the season for le cinéma.
French classics like Cleo from 5 to 7 and Air of Paris have been gracing New York City parks with their presence on Friday nights thanks to Films on the Green. The festival moves through the city showing films in different parks, like a nomadic pop-up shop of French wonderment. “People of all ages are encouraged to bring picnic blankets and food, and to join in the New York summer tradition,” says Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy. After nine summers, Films on the Green has attracted a fierce following, and established itself as a summer-in-the-city essential. The first film, Un coup de soufflé (Breathless), showed on a stormy Tuesday night, and still drew 1,200 people. Montlaur understands the devotion of their audience: “it’s a rendez vous for New Yorkers with French cinema.”
Films on the Green projecting the crème de la crème of French cinema is like Beyoncé performing in a coffee shop: the extraordinary becomes available to the ordinary. As the birthplace of cinema, France consistently generates innovative and internationally-revered films. “French cinema is very recognizable in USA, it’s studied in university classes and considered to be very prestigious,” says Montlaur. By taking it outdoors and around the city, she continues, French cinema becomes accessible to a broader audience.
Since the festival’s opening film played on June 7th, Films on the Green has screened a free film every Friday night in four (and counting) different New York City parks. WNYU and WHCS DJ’s set the mood while the projector goes up, blankets are thrown down, and picnic baskets flip open. The crowd chatters away right up until the film starts rolling. There’s a quick burst of applause, followed by an attentive silence, which is only broken when the fist breeze rolls in, and a collective sigh of relief travels through the audience. This Friday night’s film, L’ami de mon ami (Boyfriends and Girlfriends), is not to be missed—it’s a story about a love square (like a love triangle but with one more person) and it’s rarely shown in the U.S. See it in Tompkins Square Park at 8:30pm, and don’t forget to cross “outdoor French film screening” off of your summer bucket list.