There is no band! Guarding the entrance of Silencio, the hottest club in Paris at the moment, there will simply be a medium height man sipping vodka through a straw, checking that your name is indeed on his list whilst behind him, a neon sign depicting two keys changes from red to blue. We are at Rue (street) Montmartre, 142. This is the former headquarters of L'Aurore, the newspaper which printed Emilie Zola’s J’accuse. Before that it was the spot where Moliere was buried. More recently, it was known as the recording studio for the electronic music band Justice. For everyone else, experts and profanes alike, it’s the building where you can find, over there on the right, the popular disco Social Club.
Stepping inside Silencio
The nightclub itself is structured like an underground bunker, hidden from the surface by three flights of stairs. Stepping down you can admire photographs of the establishment taken by the club’s owner-designer-cum-musician, David Lynch. The sense of dizziness begins here, the feeling that the world is splitting in two. On the one hand there is what you know is real - maybe confined to the actual experience of walking down the stairs. On the other, it feels like something fictitious, confusing and enigmatic. After all, no-one in their right mind would go to Silencio if they didn’t have a mild fascination for Lynch's thriller Mulholland Drive (2001). The idea that those are pictures of a place that represents yet another location, which in turn was made into a film set, makes you feel like you are in the presence of an idea of art raised to the third power. 'I’m photographing a nightclub that I created on the line of one invented in a film,' Lynch must have murmured to himself. You will enter a spiral of thought from which only a good dose of cynicism can save you from.
The blue neon key at the entrance is another reference to the film: it is one of the many clues to Mulholland’s mystery. It mainly gives the location a more exclusive and private feel. From 6pm till midnight the entrance is reserved only to members (1, 500 euros a year - 'foreigners' are entitled to a yearly fee of just above 400 euros), then it’s open to the general public until 6am the following morning – prior to putting your name down on the list, obviously. To be a member, you not only have to pay a subscription, but you must also be eligible to be categorised as an ‘artist’. It doesn’t matter whether you sing, play, paint or write, you will be able to participate in meetings, concerts, master classes, and exhibitions and suggest your own events.
All this happens rigorously before midnight. Then, just like Cinderella, Silencio shifts from a small Hollywood scene to an average-sized dance floor with an average DJ and people lining up at the bar. Some might even point out: 'Well, it’s more or less like Social Club, but with a higher level of babes!' Still, here you are able to wonder between comfortable armchairs, leaf through one of the many design books and take a seat in the small movie theatre to watch one of the three evening shows. Otherwise you can simply get drunk, go to the restrooms and take a long good look at yourself in the dressing room style mirrors, convincing yourself you’re a famous actor. It is something that almost all members have managed to do before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin; Lynch leaves the club before midnight, before the common people enter, carried away by a bunch of singing mice draped in black (showgirls, people). At the Silencio, you are always under the impression that you are in a meeting place where everyone already knows everyone else: they greet each other with smiles and kisses and talk about their day.
Lynch resembles Papa Smurf among his little baby blue fictional creatures rather than Socrates with his trusted proselyte
Whilst the American director was not present for the launch of the club, he is here now exclusively at the end of October to do the rounds. He sits down in his reserved seat and a small crowd of people gather around him, following him in his every move, talking animatedly among each other. They all look rather tiny next to the towering artist, who resembles Papa Smurf among his little baby blue fictional creatures rather than Socrates with his trusted proselyte. The Smurfs look rather ridiculous. Lynch, normally frightful and imperious, appears quite sweet and good-natured. He even manages to keep calm when approached by a guy chewing on a toothpick who seems to be saying: 'Look at me Papa Smurf! Look what I learned from Ryan Gosling's character in Drive' - although someone should have mentioned to him how he rather resembles Roberto Benigni in his breakout movie Johnny Stecchino (1991). Then there is that other guy walking around with a carefully studied glazed and absent gaze, reminiscent of the psychopathic Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (1986). Sure, Silencio is as nice and interesting as many of the other hundreds of clubs around the world. Surely it can’t compare to the ones that David Lynch creates in his movies. It confirms that when art encounters reality it can only produce a lower version of its better self. In Paris as much as in, say, Yorkshire.
Silencio is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 6pm and 6am
Images: © © David Lynch David Lynch on the Silencio stage © Alexandre Guirkinger/ both courtesy of Roland Kermarec on 'Lynchland' facebook page/ facebook; smurf (cc) Chuck _Maurice/ Flickr