Les Petits cinémas de Paris

For those who don’t know, I am only la Muséophile in my spare time. My main work is as a Senior Lecturer in French and Cinema Studies. Contemporary French film holds an even dearer place in my heart than Paris museums (though it feels sacrilegious to say so on this site) and as my students know well, I find a way to weave French film into much of my teaching.

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This has led to a few requests for a post on the small cinemas of Paris- those tiny theatres tucked away down the side streets of the fifth arrondissement that need a bit of insider knowledge to find. Paris is a world city like any other and is therefore home to its fair share of multiplex cinemas. I’m no purist; I’ve been known to catch a film or three in the gigantic subterranean hub of Ciné-Cité Les Halles, or one of the major MK2 theatres near the Champs-Elysées or the Bibliothèque Nationale.

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But the most charming, authentic and unusual Paris film experiences are to be had in the little cinemas that pepper the inner south. Most of these are in the Latin Quarter, the city’s intellectual heart, though some are hidden a little further afield. Some, like Action Christine, only have one screen. Others, like the Cinéma Champo, are part of film history itself; Jean-Luc Godard used to skip class and learn filmmaking from the early masters here (the Champo often shows Godard classics as an homage.) Arthouse, international and documentary films abound in small cinemas like La Clef, a little further south near Censier-Daubenton. Closer to the Seine, Le Studio Galande is a little underground space that keeps the international ritual of Friday-night singalongs to the Rocky Horror Picture Show alive for Parisian fans. The smaller MK2 cinemas nearby at la Place Saint Michel and la Place de l’Odéon are excellent, and show a mix of mainstream and arthouse films that caters perfectly to the rive gauche crowd.

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Paris is an endlessly rich city of cinema culture. On any given evening, the fifth and sixth arrondissements will be screening a plethora of new, classic, high-profile and practically-unknown films, in dozens of tiny rooms most have never even heard of. The best way to find out what’s on offer is to pick up a copy of the Officiel des Spectacles for a few centimes from any street press kiosk and trawl the independent cinema listings. Through the Officiel, I’ve found a Chilean documentary playing at La Clef, a David Lynch retrospective at Le Champo, the latest Jacques Audiard at Le Reflet Médicis and countless other gems. Cinema lovers shouldn’t miss the Cinémathèque and its own Musée du Cinéma in the twelfth arrondissement, but there’s nothing like immersing yourself in film in the heart of the world’s greatest cinema city.

Xx la Muséophile

The Musées de Paris museum map of Paris

Les Petits cinémas de Paris, 5th and 6th arrondissements

Check websites of individual cinemas (linked above) for session times, addresses and prices


8 thoughts on “Les Petits cinémas de Paris

  1. Will you be having posts on French films or do you have another blog for them? The last time I visited Paris some years ago, I stayed in a hotel by the Sorbonne and found a few streets away there was the Cinema du Panthéon. It was showing the acclaimed film Des Hommes Et Des Dieux. I didn’t go in to see it thinking it wouldn’t have English subtitles. I’d love to be in your class. 🙂

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  2. Thanks so much for the link to your publications! I will definitely check them out. I forgot about this comment already, but better late than never. 🙂 And what a change in this world, and the world of filmmaking and the film industry since I left that comment in your blog!

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    1. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? It’s hard to believe I made this blog post this year. Now to dream of future visits to tiny Parisian cinemas…

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      1. I think online streaming is a way to move forward, even though we cinephiles love to watch films in a small, dark movie theatre hidden in a side street. BTW, one of my all time faves is a film directed by Philippe Claudel with Kristin Scott Thomas “I’ve Loved You So Long” Have you watched it before?

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      2. Agreed, I stream most of what I watch and get my students to do the same for our courses. But there’s still nothing quite like seeing a film for the first time in a cinema. And yes, that’s a lovely (if heartbreaking) film!

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  3. I’ve just finished reading your article on Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Arrival’. What an insightful analysis and apt tribute to our French-Canadian director! And what a brilliant mind the Chinese-American author Ted Chiang is too. His whole book of short story collection is mind-boggling, filled with empathetic and astute observations of humanity. I totally agree with your position that multilingualism is the bridge to understanding our multicultural world. As a Chinese-Canadian, I know what it’s like living in that liminal space, navigating between languages. And as a second-language acquisition researcher academically, I’d observed how children in immigrant families learn two languages concurrently. After ‘Arrival’ came out, back in 2016, as a film writer for Asian American Press, I’d wanted to interview Ted Chiang but to no avail. Come to think of it, I wasn’t ready and equipped to talk to such a brilliant mind. So, that’s a relief. Anyway, regarding that conversation Louise and Shang exchanged in Mandarin, I’ve had a reader of Ripple Effects after reading my review, emailed me to express his frustration in not understanding what he called was the most important dialogue in the movie. As a Cantonese and not a Mandarin speaker, I personally didn’t get that either. Just a real-life object lesson of the benefits of multilingual proficiency. But then again, it also points to there are times when the implication and the imaginary speak louder than words. While I don’t know the actual words from Shang’s wife before she died, I know its potency and power to change her husband’s mind and in turn, the happening in the world. Anyway, thanks for letting me have the chance to read your insightful article. I’ve more to explore. 🙂

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    1. Wow, thanks for reading and for your insightful thoughts, Arti! I’m working on another project on Quebecois directors (this time looking at Villeneuve’s and Jean-Marc Vallée’s movements between Montreal and LA), it would be great to stay in touch and chat with you about your perspective as a Canadian film writer.
      As for Chang’s wife’s final words in Arrival, I completely agree that the power lies in the fact that the key words are only accessible to a Mandarin-speaking audience. It just reinforces the fact that only a polyglot could have managed the task. If you’re interested, the translation is here, although I think it works better to Anglophone audiences as a mystery… https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/arrival-chinese-line-ending

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