Non-verbal: The Sound of Charlie Chaplin

charlie chaplin homme orchestreBarely five years since it opened the Philharmonie de Paris is already a famous complex of concert halls hosting over 500 performances of world renowned musicians. It also houses a temporary exhibition space complimenting its sister institution the Cité de la Musique.  Both are conveniently located in the Parc de la Villette. There is always something exciting going on in this vast cultural landscape to suit all ages and abilities.

Charlie Chaplin's camera at Philharmonie de ParisThe current exhibition Charlie Chaplin l’Homme Orchestre showcases the cinematographic art of silent films with “eloquence” displaying numerous works, machines, scores and manuscripts. Affectionately known in France as “Charlot”, Chaplin’s influence extends from the avant-garde to popular culture. The importance of musical expression in his movies along with gestures and rhythm is highlighted. Charlie Chaplin taught himself to play the piano, cello and violin and composed or arranged the music for all of his films.

A visionary, Chaplin’s slapstick comedy was also known for its socially engaged messages. 130 years after his birth, the universal appeal makes his work especially relevant today. Likewise, the Philharmonie de Paris strives to distance itself from the elite image often associated with classical music by making its diverse cultural offerings accessible to everyone. Programming is affordable, family friendly and inclusive. It isn’t unusual for me to run into people I know whose children, like our adult son, are autistic. Many have remarked how attentive, welcoming and accommodating autistic man looks at statue of Charlie chaplinthe staff is from the security at the entrance to the ticket counter, cloakroom, concessions etc.

While we were standing in line at the ticket counter (billeterie) someone from the visitor’s reception desk (accueil) walked over with two free tickets to the exhibition. I knew about their policy for people with a disability and one accompanying person but his courtesy was helpful to avoid the queue. At the entrance, we were offered headsets. When I said that my son doesn’t like anything touching his ears she reassured me that they weren’t indispensable.  As part of the fun immersive experience, black hats and jackets are available to dress like the “Little Vagabond”. While literally wearing Charlie Chaplin’s costume, visitors can figuratively walk in his shoes. In addition to several film projections, our son was particularly interested in the original photographs while my husband was intrigued by the vintage cameras and other equipment. Spoiler alert! There are very many interactive ways in which to explore the artist’s imagination. Our favorite was turning a wheel to project images on a screen in fast or slow motion while turning other levers to make sound effects.

You can see Charlie Chaplin l’Homme Orchestre until January 26, 2020. Closed Mondays and holidays the hours vary from Tuesday to Sunday with extended hours during the school holidays. No doubt it will leave you wanting more. Smile, there are many events planned around the exhibition. A catalogue and other merchandise are available for purchase in the boutique. There is even a dedicated page (in English) on the Philharmonie de Paris website that has a lot of information to help prepare your visit including the exhibition’s playlist.

Getting There: The Philharmonie de Paris is at 221 avenue Jean-Jaurès 75019 Paris. The temporary exhibition space is on the ground level. See the single arrow on the map.

plan d'accès philharmonie de paris

Click on the image to enlarge the map

Metro: Line 5 Porte de Pantin. Take the exit Parc de la Villette. Follow the paved path that leads to the Philharmonie entrance on the same level. Shown on the bottom of the map.

Bus: 75, 151
Tramway: Line 3b Porte de Pantin. Cross the street (avenue Jean-Jaurès) and follow the path on the left to the ground level entrance.
By Car:  On street parking can be tricky but it is possible to be dropped off at the taxi stand (see cars on right of map) on Avenue Jean Jaures about 200 meters from the entrance. There is a private parking, Q-Park, at 185 boulevard Sérrurier, 75019

girl stand behind concession standFood and Drink: Our visit is incomplete without coffee and a sweet or savory snack at Café l’Atelier located on the ground level of the Philharmonie de Paris. Open from Monday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm or 8:30 when there is an evening concerts.

Restrooms: The closest restrooms to the exhibition space entrance are in the Café l’Atelier on the same level. They are individual and wheelchair accessible so ideal for families who need to assist someone. There are also toilettes located on the ground level near the exit of the exhibition hall behind the cloakroom (vestiaires). There are accessible stalls in all restrooms.

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