THIS IS A thoughtful, informative film about one of the most interesting places on Earth: A centuries-old, 118-acre cemetery, the largest burial area in the City of Paris. Established by Napoleon in 1804, it is officially known as the Père Lachaise Cemetery, in homage to the Catholic priest who was confessor to King Louis XIV and who had earlier lived on the land.
When the cemetery first opened, it was promoted as a site in which the famous (along with the unknown) would be eager to be buried in, and that is precisely what happened. It now houses more than 300,000 graves, including those of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Georges Melies, Eugene Delacroix, Frederic Chopin, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Isadora Duncan, Marcel Proust, Maria Callas, Georges Bizet, Georges Seurat and scores of other celebrities. Among its most popular "interns" is American rock musician Jim Morrison, whose tomb is so heavily visited by star-struck admirers from all over the world that it has to be constantly guarded. Along the paths and alleys in Père Lachaise, on benches and other fortuitous spots, are graffiti arrows that direct (or impishly mislead) doe-eyed devotees of "Jim" to his final resting place.
If this film were merely a factual account of the cemetery and its history, it wouldn’t be half as compelling. Instead, without narration, it provides us a sense of "being there," an impression of what it is probably like to wander about at Père Lachaise, observing and chatting with those who show up, including women who faithfully come to take care of the graves of their loved ones.
The film’s most vivid moments are fragments of conversation with people whom the film crew encountered at this or that setting: A taxi driver in exile from Iran (but a singer at night), who regularly visits the monument of a major poet from his own country, and who, after coaxing, sings one of the poems by the poet; a young Japanese pianist, who comes to the grave of composer Frederic Chopin, whose music she plays, and whose grave is a stirring reminder of her father, who died prematurely; the hauntingly beautiful daughter (now middle-aged) of an Armenian craftsman, who for years has devotedly cared for (and talked to) her father’s resting place. But there are others who are equally interesting.
This film, endless in its fascination, is comprised of astonishing insights about how people behave toward the buried remains of those with whom they feel a degree of kinship–even if they were never related.—RB
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All reviews are copyright © by Roy R. Behrens
Forever. A film by Heddy Honigann. 97 mins. DVD, Color, 2006. Available through Icarus Films.
back Home CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009)
“[It is] worthy of unspoken praise.”
“…it is an essential reference for anyone interested in the subject and its broader context.”
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From reviews of  CAMOUPEDIA
“[It is] a leading contemporary source book.”
“[It is] an encyclopedic presentation of a vast body of findings in camouflage…[it] opens doors to new frontiers in a number of understudied areas of art and military history.”
Woody Allen (Getting Even): “That month we went to Picasso’s studio in Arles, which was then called Rouen or Zurich, until the French renamed it in 1589 under Louis the Vague. (Louis was a sixteenth-century bastard king who was just mean to everybody.”