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Constantly changing name, travelling through time and dressing up in another's accessories... Quiet on the set! We're filming at Porte des Lilas...
An icon of Parisian life since the early 20th century, the city's underground and trains have inevitably played an important role in film. While it's possible to get permission to film a scene in the tunnels and trains of the metro system, some productions require special staging conditions, for example to recreate an old station with architecture or decorations that no longer exist, or to film action scenes. Enter the Porte des Lilas – Cinéma metro station...
Parisian commuters who regularly take lines 11 and 3bis will laugh outright if you suggest that the Porte des Lilas station has been out of use since 1939. Strictly speaking, though, it’s the truth—at least for an old metro line that is all but unknown. Since this third line, which connected Porte des Lilas to Pré Saint-Gervais, was closed to the public, the "ghost" station has been given new life, working for directors as a space they can customise for their film.
So when Steve Buscemi portrays a tourist drowned in postcards of the Mona Lisa at the Tuileries metro station, he is actually being filmed in the Porte des Lilas – Cinéma station (Joel and Ethan Coen – Paris, je t’aime, 2006). The same is true of Audrey Tautou when she is mysteriously drawn by the trembling voice of Edith Piaf to the record player of a blind man begging on the platform, supposedly at the Abbesses station (Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Amélie, 2001). The Porte des Lilas – Cinéma station is a true chameleon, one day passing for the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile hub in Rois Mages (Didier Bourdon and Bernard Campan, 2001), the next masquerading as the Gare de l’Est metro station, where a moving trio of homeless men take refuge in Gérard Jugnot's Wonderful Times (1991). In 2010, the tracks leading to the station, the voie navette and voie des Fêtes, set the scene for a high-speed chase through the underground tunnels in Fred Cavayé's Point Blank.
And when it is used to film a time-piece on the Second World War, the ad spaces in the hidden side of Porte des Lilas are concealed by impressive German propaganda posters (Jean-Paul Salomé – Female Agents, 2008).
The public cannot usually access the Porte des Lilas – Cinéma station, but on occasion it has been known to open its doors for some European Heritage Days. Keep your eyes open!