La Cinémathèque Française in Paris has been housing a Tim Burton exhibition since March, and this week I was lucky enough to visit it myself. Situated in Bercy, Paris, the current home of the exhibition, and the museum of cinema, is a little out of the way, but coupled with a trip to the quirky Bercy Village and a stroll through Bercy park it worked out perfectly.
Pre-booking a ticket online was certainly the right thing to do because on arrival at midday with the temperature already over 25 degrees the queue was humongous, stretching across the park like the Beetlejuice snake. Crammed into a lift bound for the fifth floor, anticipation gave way to sheer excitement as the lift doors closed to reveal a large picture of the Corpse Bride printed on the inside. I was really there.
The exhibition advertisements boasted 700 of Tim Burton’s works and it certainly delivered. The walls were adorned with sketches, doodles, videos, notations, quotes, and so on, all helpfully categorised into sections such as ‘creatures’, ‘clowns’, ‘couples’, etc. then moving on as the exhibition progressed to specific movies, and even his older works were represented, ranging from the original Frankenweenie and Black Cauldron through Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks and Batman, to Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows.
The UV room was particularly stunning. A carousel lit up in UV paints and adorned with very Burton creatures spun to Danny Elfman’s music and craved attention. There was something magically hypnotic about the feature that drew me farther into Burton’s imagination with every turn. The wall was also covered in UV creatures that gave the optical illusion of moving towards you.
My exhibition highlights were seeing Edward Scissorhands’ scissorhands and costume, Batman masks, stop-motion models from Corpse Bride, Vincent and Mars Attacks, sketches and concept art from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the walking staff from Dark Shadows, and the many intricate models of Jack Skellington’s various facial expressions that were needed for the film.
The exhibition certainly felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain a glimpse into the creative practice and inner workings of an artist whose work I greatly admire and it did not disappoint. I cannot profess to love all of his pieces, indeed some of it (and here the baby pincushion springs to mind) is highly disturbing, yet there is something truly captivating about his work, even in the simplest of his doodles scribbled on newspaper or napkins.
Walking through the exhibition and seeing Burton’s art first hand felt like being in the presence of real genius and whether you are a fan like me or whether you perhaps only like one or two of his characters you would be hard pressed not to feel impressed or inspired by this collection. Having seen the concept work and development first hand I will now look forward to watching his films through again with a more familiar eye and falling in love with the details all over again.