This the shortest ‘Varda short’ I’ve found so far at 3 minutes including the credits. The film is, in Varda’s words, “Not an ad for the Cinémathèque, but a tribute disguised as promotion”. In reality it’s a love letter to cinema and if you are a cinephile it’s hard to resist. The title translates as “You’ve got beautiful steps, you know”, referring to the steps down into the building and then the steps down from the same building to the street when your visit comes to an end.
The steps provide a link to a series of film clips with Jean Gabin striding down the streets of the casbah in Pépé le Moko (dir. Julien Duvivier, 1937) and the horror of the pram careering down the steps of Odessa in Battleship Potemkin (dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925). There are also clips from Juve contre Fantômas ( dir. Louis Feuillade, 1913), The Scarlet Empress (Dietrich and Sternberg, US 1934), Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941), Cover Girl (dir. Charles Vidor 1944), Le mépris (dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1963), L’histoire d’Adèle H. (dir. François Truffaut, 1975) and Ran (dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1985) plus a couple of other films I didn’t recognise. Towards the end of the film, Isabelle Adjani, the star of Truffaut’s film, joins the unseen Varda as a second guide, but onscreen.
That’s it, but the clips are to be treasured. The Cinémathèque has moved several times since its founding by Henri Langlois in 1936 so remember that this short film was made in 1986 if you go looking for the location in Paris. I believe it last moved in 2005 to a location in the Parc de Bercy.