Cheapo Cinema Wars: The Cultural Institutes Strike Back

Mine Serizawa

As a middle schooler I dreaded being dragged to another event at the Goethe-Institut in Zimbabwe, where we lived at the time. It was always something-or-another about promoting…culture.

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In truth, the film screenings were always interesting as well as free—classics of German cinema, or Doris Dörrie’s Enlightenment Guaranteed about mismatched brothers trying to fast-track it to nirvana at a monastery in Japan—it was the adults dancing afterwards that I dreaded (the infamous “parent shuffle”, but I digress). The Institut has counterparts worldwide, including, of course, Tokyo.

The city’s various cultural institutes have full schedules—tapering somewhat in July and August, unfortunately—that offer something a little different for less. Case in point: I’m not sure that I’m ready to invest 1,800yen in another Brothers Grimm, kinda, rehash in the form of Snow White and the Huntsman, currently running at Toho cinemas.

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L’Institut franco-japonais de Tokyo in Shinjuku, for example, is a short walk up from Sotobori-dori and the imperial moat; film screenings and other events are regularly hosted there. Opposite the main building, a bookstore (the “Rive Gauche”) is a pick-up point for movie tickets or an issue of Numero or Vogue or what-have-you, and the garden doubles as cafe and installation site.

Film screenings seem to cost around 1,000yen and never upwards of 1,200yen; for members of the institute, the cost is even lower, generally around 500yen. Upcoming events at the institute include:

-Screenings of Je Veux Voir (“I Want to See”) and A Perfect Day (dir. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige) on July 18 and 19, with a talk by the directors on July 19. The event is being held in conjunction with the Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World exhibition at the Mori Art Museum



-A screening of 7 Days in Havana , by various directors including Benicio Del Toro and Gaspar Noé, on July 26

-Monthly screenings at Geidai (Tokyo University of the Arts) organized through L’Institut: Les demoiselles de Rochefort (dir. Jacques Demy) on July 21; Une femme est une femme (dir. Jean-Luc Godard) in September, and French Cancan (dir. Jean Renoir) in October. Students get in for 600yen; the public for 1,200yen.


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We’re late in catching the larger annual events–the French Film Festival, with three to four screenings daily, or the Hors Pistes (“off-road”), an arts festival-with-afterparty, natch, brought to Japan by the Centre Pompidou–but with entry fees of around 1,000yen for screenings at each event, be sure to keep them in mind for next summer.

Tip: Investigate the schedules at other institutes, e.g. the British Countil in Tokyo, or the OAG Haus/Goethe Institut. Events are cheap and often free of charge.

Name:L’Institut franco-japonais de Tokyo
Location:15 Ichigaya, Funagawaracho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Closest Station:7-minute walk from Iidabashi Station, exit B3 (Tozai, Oedo, Yurakucho, Namboku) or West Exit (JR Sobu)
Web:http://www.institut.jp/fr (French and Japanese only)
Phone:03-5261-3933
Business hours:Mondays 12pm-8pm, Tuesday-Friday 9:30am-8pm, Saturdays 9:30am-7pm, Sundays 9:30am-6pm

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