It was just an ordinary mid-summer day in movieland, with a bunch of chatter about the box office and the Oliver Stone film’s underwhelming opening weekend, when what should appear at Cinematical, but the sort of news that makes serious movie buffs sit up and pay close attention:

China’s Hou Hsiao-hsien, director of The Flowers of Shanghai, Cafe Lumiere and Three Times (one of this year’s best films), is back at work. And this time, he’s filming in Paris… with Juliette Binoche.

Even more interesting, some of the film takes place inside the Musee d’Orsay, my favorite museum, and is the first of four films in a series celebrating that museum. As if that isn’t enough to make me do the Dance of Joy (no, don’t look for it on YouTube… some things should remain secret), it turns out that another of those four films will be directed by Jim Jarmusch.

I visited the Musee d’Orsay fifteen years ago, and I can picture it vividly… more vividly, in fact, than many places I’ve visited in the last couple of years. I love the Louvre, don’t get me wrong, but the light in the Musee d’Orsay is quite different. In the Louvre, I feel closed in, as if I’m descending into a labyrinthine mine full of beauty and history. The rooms are extraordinary, but they can make one claustrophobic after a while. The Orsay, on the other hand, is open and alive with natural light. I think that light suits the art, and invigorates the visitor. There’s so much to enjoy there, and it’s nice to feel comfortable strolling for hours and hours.

I can’t wait to see what Hou Hsiao-hsien will do there. He’s a master of long, slow scenes, and that should allow the museum to become as strong a presence as any character in the film.

My favorite actress, my favorite museum, and one of my favorite directors, all together for one film. Now THAT qualifies as “ain’t it cool” news!!

For some reason, I have an urge to go out and rent Russian Ark again….

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