Jim's Last Picture Show

by Lisa Nesselson

"We didn't find out about it until a few days later," says Jean-Max Causse, co-owner and co-founder of the Paris theater chain called Action (pronounced "ahk-see-own" in French). "The police found a ticket stub in Morrison's pocket and traced it to our cinema, the Action LaFayette."

Jim saw Raoul Walsh's "Pursued," starring Robert Mitchum, on the afternoon of July 2nd. It was the last movie he ever saw.

"Whenever we schedule 'Pursued', we always mention in the program notes that it was Jim's final trip to the movies," says Jean-Max, adding, in jest, "He saw it that afternoon and apparently hated it so much that he went home and ended it all."

Jean-Max elaborates: "I always liked The Doors music. But the cashier that day didn't recognize our illustrious customer. Morrison went to the movies incognito. We didn't realize who had come through our door until the police asked us to match up the numbers on the stub -- that's how we established that he'd been to an afternoon show and that's how we know exactly which film he saw."

Just shy of 30 years ago, Jean-Max and his partner Jean-Marie Rodon, fresh out of college and in training to enter the insurance business, followed a muse that Jim would have appreciated. Figuring they probably weren't the only film buffs around who would like to see non-mainstream American filmmaking and older Hollywood-style films showcased in a proper theatrical setting, they bought the languishing LaFayette cinema which, on December 2, 1966 became the first Studio Action. (The LaFayette is no more, but Action owns two theaters in the 5th arrondissement along with one in the 6th and programs the venerable MacMahon in the 17th.)

Causse and Rodon's encyclopedic knowledge of films-worth-seeing has served them well and has helped to illuminate two generations of Paris filmgoers. (Since VCRs were prohibitively expensive and tape outlets were scarce, the pre-recorded video phenomenon was very slow to catch on in France. There is nothing comparable to Blockbuster and even now, fewer than 40% of French households own a videotape player.)

Action locates original negatives and strikes fresh prints, which they project in their cozy art houses. The week of July 3, 1996 you (or Jim, were he not indisposed) could have seen the following films on an Action screen: "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Henry King (1952); Abel Ferrara's "The Addiction"; "Jane Eyre" by Robert Stevenson (1944) with Orsone Welles and Joan Fontaine; "Trainspotting" ; a film-a-day Joseph L. Mankiewicz retrospective (including the restored "Cleopatra"); Pedro Almodovar's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (1984) and -- a rare treat -- Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" in 3-D, glasses and all (1954).

I have no immediate plans to croak in Paris but, given my druthers, I'd be proud to have an Action stub in MY pocket.

Call Usher

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