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Originally a hamlet within the independent commune (municipality) of Belleville, Ménilmontant was, like other suburban communes surrounding the French capital, absorbed into the city of Paris in 1860. The name is said to derive from Mesnil Mautemps, meaning "bad weather house". By the 16th century mautemps had been corrupted into montant (meaning "climbing"), probably owing to its situation on a hill overlooking Paris.
The area also served as the location of a retreat, established by the Saint-Simonian theorist Enfantin and forty followers. Before its 1860 absorption into Paris, Ménilmontant lay beyond the capital's tax border (octroi), so that wine was cheaper there, leading to the development of numerous drinking establishments, known as guinguettes, in the 18th century. It has long been a predominantly working-class neighborhood, and in the early 1830s became notorious for the commune established there by the Saint-Simonians, whose louche practices led to the suppression of the movement.
In popular culture
- The Prix Goncourt winning novel La Maternelle (1904) takes place in Ménilmontant.
- The character Garance from the classic French film, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), hails from Ménilmontant.
- Ménilmontant was the setting of the classic French movie Casque d'or (1952), which starred Simone Signoret, the fantasy short The Red Balloon (1956), and the silent experimental short Ménilmontant (1926) directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff.
- The chase scene in the 2002 film The Bourne Identity, where Franka Potente and Matt Damon tear around Paris in a Mini, was filmed partly in Ménilmontant.
- The crime drama movie Un p'tit gars de Ménilmontant (2013) by Alain Minier takes place here.
- Ménilmontant is a song by the French singer Charles Trenet.
- "Rue de Ménilmontant" is a song by the French singer Camille Dalmais.
- The Ménilmontant neighbourhood is mentioned prominently in Henry Miller's 1956 novel Quiet Days in Clichy as well as in the 1969 film adaptation of that novel by Jens Jørgen Thorsen.
- Film star and singer Maurice Chevalier was born in Ménilmontant.
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