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.
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.
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.
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
Les Petits cinémas de Paris, 5th and 6th arrondissements
Check websites of individual cinemas (linked above) for session times, addresses and prices