Bourse de Commerce
 
Touche pas À la
femme blanche ! 
 
The Bourse de Commerce <br> as cinematographic subject
 
<div style="text-align: left;"> <i>don’t touch the white woman!</i> (France/Italy, 1974) directed by Marco Ferreri, is a parody of the Western genre, with a prestigious cast that includes Marcello Mastroianni, Michel PiccolI, Philippe Noiret, Catherine Deneuve, and Serge Reggiani. The action takes place in and around the site formerly occupied by the Halles Baltard, Paris abandoned fresh-food market, then being demolished: among the ruins of its pavilions, in the excavation site intended to accommodate an underground shopping center and train station, as well as in the Bourse de Commerce. </div>
 
<a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Jean-Yves de Lépinay</b><br> Former director of collections and programs at the Forum des Images
 


<div style="text-align: left;"> <span class="alinea"></span>“It’s our very own Sistine Chapel!,” exclaims General Terry (Philippe Noiret), as he shows General Custer (Marcello Mastroianni) the remarkable paintings that line the lower part of the Bourse de Commerce’s cupola. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>During the very first scenes of this surprising film, we can glimpse a few details of the paintings, a celebration of international trade. We see scenes depicting North America, bloody battles against Native Americans. By comparing these paintings to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo depicted scenes from the Book of Genesis, Ferreri reminds his viewers that the development of international trade and colonial expansion is the touchstone of our economic system. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>While <i>Don’t Touch the White Woman!</i> was a flop at the time of its release, it has become over time a cult movie, thanks to Ferreri’s surprising, extraordinary decision to use an immense construction site, dug into the very heart of Paris from 1971 to 1973, as the unlikely setting for a reenactment of the famous 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, the final victory of Native American warriors over US soldiers. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Ferreri in no way attempts to recreate that battle’s original setting; on the contrary, he openly acknowledges his filming location by showcasing the destruction of the pavilions designed by Baltard. He shows the Eglise Saint-Eustache perched atop an artificial cliff and the Bourse de Commerce towering above the giant excavation. In so doing, he transforms this anachronistic farce into a sarcastic attack against urban renewal and, more broadly, against the excesses of capitalist society. Ferreri emphasizes this point from the film’s very start: the action opens on a meeting of a few “representatives of the country’s economy”—or, as they put it, “representatives of progress and civilization.” Installed inside the Bourse de Commerce, here the seat of government and the military, they cynically conclude that it has become necessary for them to exterminate the last remaining occupants of the “hole”—the Native Americans, who represent all those excluded by economic development. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>This extermination must take place immediately. They must show no mercy. “The more we kill this year, the fewer we’ll have to kill next year.” Why is this punishment necessary? Because “those people refuse to acknowledge the value of private property and its advantages. They reject the principles of egoism with which Providence has endowed human nature.” <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The entire movie is a strident attack, with a deliberately eccentric, even childish, virulence. It is also an extremely rare opportunity to see this majestic monument and its superb cupola showcased onscreen. <i>Don’t Touch the White Woman!</i> is the only movie in which the Bourse de Commerce is used as a set and becomes a veritable character in the narrative. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Countless movies have been shot in Paris. Filmmakers have tirelessly captured the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe from the Place de l’Étoile, Notre-Dame, Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, and so many other locales. But the Bourse de Commerce, despite its noble architecture, has rarely attracted their gaze. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>It is likely that this lacuna was due to the astonishing visual impact of the area surrounding the Bourse de Commerce. The former Halles de Paris, Paris’s fresh-food market, captivated filmmakers’ focus until its closure in 1969. The demolition of the so-called “belly of Paris”—a reference to Émile Zola’s novel <i>Le Ventre de Paris</i>—then the appearance, for several long months, of the famous “Trou des Halles” (the hole of the Halles), drew attention to the neighboring Bourse de Commerce, a distinguished building that, until then, had remained in the shadows. Marco Ferreri’s genius was to recognize that this building, dedicated to commerce, could become a striking metaphor for the excesses of capitalism. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>At the film’s end, after the defeat of their armies, the zealous representatives of economic power flee the battlefield in a hot-air balloon, flying over the city’s disemboweled landscape. The curvature of the balloon’s dome briefly parallels that of the Bourse de Commerce’s dome. It almost seems as though their headquarters—their war room—was flying off toward other battles, abandoning the monument once dedicated to the development of international trade, henceforth deprived of its aura. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The “Trou des Halles” is now just a fragment in the memory of some Parisians. The Bourse de Commerce no longer lies in the shadows of the picturesque central market, of the “ventre de Paris.” The nostalgic memory of ancient Paris is slowly fading. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>But the neighborhood of Les Halles remains at the heart of Paris today. Now located in the central axis of the Nelson Mandela Garden, facing the new Canopée des Halles, the Bourse de Commerce has found a new vocation—and perhaps it will once again inspire filmmakers. </div>


The Bourse de Commerce <br/> in motion pictures

<i>Voici le temps des assassins (Deadlier than the Male)</i> <br/>directed by Julien Duvivier, starring Jean Gabin <br/>France, 1956, black and white, 1 h 53 min <br/>The talented Châtelain (Jean Gabin) feeds the diverse, colorful crowd that works and shops at the Marché des Halles in his restaurant. These include a visitor from the Bourse de Commerce, whose cupola viewers glimpse briefly, who lunches at the restaurant, accompanied by some spirited young conquests who help him spend the profits he’s won by speculating on the price of merchandises.

<i>La Femme de Jean (Jean’s Wife)</i> <br/>directed by Yannick Bellon <br/>France, 1974, color, 1 h 45 min <br/>During her long walks across Paris, Jean’s wife observes the famous “Hole of Les Halles,” catching sight of the dome of the Bourse, in the distance, behind the last of Baltard’s pavilions to remain standing.

<i>Le Sucre (Sugar)</i> <br/>directed by Jacques Rouffio, starring Jean Carmet and Gérard Depardieu <br/>France, 1978, color, 1 h 44 min <br/>Jacques Rouffio recounts the story of a scandal that filled the tabloids for several years: the manipulation of the price of sugar by unscrupulous stockbrokers. The film takes us into the trading room, close to the brokers themselves, as tons of coffee and cocoa are being sold and purchased.

<i>Tangos, l’exil de Gardel (Tangos, The Exile of Gardel)</i> <br/>directed by Fernando Solanas, starring Marie Laforêt and Philippe Léotard <br/>France / Argentina, 1985, color, 1 h 59 min <br/>Perhaps a foreigner’s gaze was needed in order to fully capture the superlative beauty of the Bourse de Commerce: that of celebrated Argentinian director Fernando Solanas, whose magnificent “tangedy”—a mixture of tango, comedy, and tragedy—was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. In this meditation on exile, the ghosts of the god of tango, Carlos Gardel, and of José de San Martin, El Libertador of Argentina, appear in the Bourse de Commerce’s courtyard.

 

Pinault Collection

Pinault Collection Magazine - Issue #12

 

Pinault Collection

Archives