Keepers of the cinematic flame

Times Staff Writer

As much as any country on the globe, France has made great films during every decade of cinema’s existence, and Paris shops have the paper evidence to prove it. The city has numerous places to buy posters, magazines and books, stores that are fertile hunting grounds for collectors of every stripe.

At the top of the list for serious poster collectors is Ciné-Images, 68 Rue de Babylone, just across the street from La Pagode theater. This store, in business for 30 years, was the first of its kind in France. It stocks more than 8,000 posters from France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, even Cuba.

Ciné-Images’ range is reflected in the posters on display. A classic Charlie Chaplin shares space with “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Eclipse.” The stock begins with the beginning of film, with an 1896 poster for the Lumière Cinématographe, the early camera/projector (priced at $16,000), and ends in the 1970s. Prices begin at $40. “After that,” says the store’s Alexandre Boyer, displaying a spectacular image from Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “everything is possible.”

Two other notable poster shops are a few doors apart on Rue Saint-Martin in the 4th arrondissement, not far from the Pompidou Centre. Intemporel, which focuses on old posters, is at No. 22; Aux Films du Temps, which specializes in more recent work, is at No. 8. Both are worth a visit.

Paris’ best cinema bookstores, such as Atmosphère at 10 Rue Broca in the 5th, tend to sell a bit of everything — posters and stills and books and old magazines. This store’s back issues of the journals Positif and Cahiers du Cinéma, a sign tells us, are in numerical order and ought to stay that way.

Arguably the city’s most atmospheric film bookshop is Ciné-doc, whose 45 Passage Jouffroy location in the 9th arrondissement puts it inside one of those distinctive enclosed pedestrian arcades, mid-19th century malls with tile floors and elegant skylights for ceilings.

The inside of this long, narrow store is as idiosyncratic as its location. A specialty of the house is photographs of film directors, placed in wonderfully hand-labeled wooden drawers. Ciné-doc also has a strong collection of picture-postcard versions of great film posters. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are well represented, as are Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and classic French films such as “La Bête Humaine.”

Perhaps the largest, most wide-ranging of the film bookstores is Ciné Reflet, whose 14 Rue Serpente location in the Latin Quarter is near the major repertory cinemas that crowd around the Odéon Métro stop.

Under the watchful eye of Mr. Cinema, a former boxer who prefers not to give his real name and whose red gloves hang on the wall, this store displays a rich cornucopia of material that includes old projectors, soundtrack phonograph records (as diverse as “Popeye” and “Rocco and His Brothers”), even books in English.

This is a place to wander serendipitously, like an old attic, coming across copies of venerable French film magazines such as Mon Film from the 1930s and such oddities as back issues of the UniJapan Film Quarterly from the 1970s. A good selection of current French film magazines is also available.

One of Ciné Reflet’s least expensive specialties is small flashcards or mini-posters, each devoted to a given film or film event. I caught a glimpse of one commemorating the Cannes Film Festival of 1947. Almost as good as being there.