Emblematic figure of Parisian exploitation, owner of the Espace Saint-Michel (5e arrondissement), an independent cinema with two screens, Claude Gérard died on January 24 in Paris at the age of 77. The exhibitor was keen to program committed films, open to the world, and to bring the debate of ideas to life. He will have lived all his life in the capital, where he was born, on January 31, 1945, except for some time spent in Senegal, where he did his military service (a cooperation).
Its Parisian address did not change either: it was that of the cinema, 7, place Saint-Michel, a family history that dates back to the end of the 19th century.e century. Originally, in 1880, the place was a restaurant – a “Bouillon” – owned by Victor Gandon. Little by little, he felt the wind turn. The cinema took off and Gandon transformed the space into a projection room, with balcony: the Saint-Michel Cinema opened its doors in 1911. It was transmitted in 1918 to the husband of Victor Gandon’s niece, Gaston Gérard, grandfather of Claudius. Son of Gaston, Jean Gérard took the reins in 1947, then entrusted it in 1986 to his son, Claude.
Claude Gérard had however started another career. After middle school (Montaigne) and high school (Louis-le-Grand), he entered the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), founded a consulting company and taught accounting at Paris-Dauphine University. A great sportsman, he also practiced volleyball at a high level. But the cinephile that he was, from an early age – after class, he rushed into the dark room – did not hesitate to take up the torch of exploitation.
A daily ritual
Those close to him describe a man who never gave up, even when the cinema caught fire, on the night of October 22 to 23, 1988: Catholic fundamentalists had then started a fire in the room, to protest against the programming of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), by Martin Scorsese – thirteen people were injured. The cinema reopened three years later, in 1991, with a new name, Espace Saint-Michel, symbolizing a place of life and freedom of expression – with a bar, concerts, and above all debates which, for some years, are broadcast live on a YouTube channel.
Claude Gérard spent his life or almost in his cinema, even if he never missed his daily ritual, crossing the boulevard Saint-Michel to buy his newspaper at the kiosk. A handyman, he delegated little, did the “accounts” for the company, repaired the electricity or leaks in the basement (frequent, due to the proximity of the Seine) in his overalls.
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Source: Le Monde