Sometimes I am totally ahead of the game and get to feel like a cool person 'in the know'. Other times I am slow on the uptake and suddenly I am the last kid picked for a kickball team. In the case of the amazing Tim Burton exhibit currently touring the world, I am the latter. Which is super embarrassing because I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Beetlejuice is one of the greatest films ever made. Frankenweenie is a childhood Halloween memory for me. And so on and so forth. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJc6A8tNgZI]
I missed this amazing exhibition in LA and NYC so was overjoyed when I found that it was showing at the French film museum in Paris while I was there. The first day I had free after my course ended in the City of Lights/Love/Bread I dashed to see this show and it is one of the highlights of my entire visit. Walking through the opening corridor with high ceilings painted in black and white stripes mimicking Beetlejuice's wedding suit, you feel like you're walking into the Burton brain and it's awesome. Super creepy and super awesome.
The exhibit is dedicated mostly to Burton's art, opening with a photography project he did out in a desert set-up like you've walked into an old stately home and are viewing their bizarre art collection. It moves into a blacked out room, lit only by a flourescent light to show the colors of paintings done on black velvet on the walls around a central lit-up morbid carousel model. I didn't want to leave that room. I wanted it to continue on forever. You felt transported and you began to feel like nothing more than a fly on the wall to the brilliance around you. But you have to keep going and it just gets better. The main art room has sculptures like the ones that come to life in Beetlejuice and the walls are lined with his artwork, sketches, models and animation. There was one tear out of a notebook that struck me in particular...a poem about how much the writer loves his girlfriend until one day he notices a crack behind her ear and a pigeon perched on her head, realizing she is nothing but a statue.
It's dark but it's incredible. The show opens with a quote from Burton explaining that he would always get upset that he couldn't draw the human form. It wasn't until he finally told himself 'well, it doesn't have to be a properly human form' that he truly felt free and began to create the creatures we know and are introduced to through this exhibit.
Now, it isn't to say that his films are forgotten. The second half of the show chronologically takes you through each of Tim Burton's films, starting with his 30 minute short through Disney, Frankenweenie, a dark ode to a boy's love for his pet dog. Props from the sets and initial sketches and models of the characters are displayed. Even notebooks flipped open to his original notes for a great idea for a film which will turn out to be Beetlejuice. And at one point, you suddenly realize you're being overlooked by a huge topiary animal replica of those in Edward Scissorhands.
I'm sorry if it feels like I am giving it all away for those that will be going to see this show but I promise I'm giving away none of the magic. Tim Burton is a master and a revolutionary on the way we look at life, death and the beauty of the unusual.
The show is running in Paris until August 5th and you can get all the information here.
(All images courtesy of Cinematique Francaise.)