Closed for months, Cinémathèque Française museum of cinema is about to open as soon as lockdown is lifted. New route, new staging, exclusive archives, the permanent museum returns increased by 300sqm and more beautiful than ever, and now called Musée Méliès in tribute to the most famous movie maker, Georges Méliès. This genius comes along in a fantastic journey through time to discover the history of cinema.
“The Cinémathèque Française enjoys the Georges Méliès greatest collection. Covering 300sqm, it mostly focuses on Méliès, telling us the story of the birth of cinema, Méliès’ heritage in the French and American fantastic movies. The museum offers a part about pre-cinema times, a part on the birth of the cinema, then Georges Méliès, and the after-Méliès” the museum co-curator Gabrielle Sebire explains.
Among the treasures displayed, “completely exclusive archives” coming from the “huge stocks of the Cinémathèque” coming from two Méliès funds – the funds created by the founder of the Cinémathèque Française, Henri Langlois when he was alive and from 1936, and a funds purchased as a complement in 2004 – but never before seen. “Following the purchase of the second funds, the Cinémathèque organized a small temporary exhibition, and then a great traveling exhibition in Spain. We told ourselves it was a shame the French public – and especially the French family public – cannot see this exhibition in a permanent way”, Sebire continues.
As soon as Musée Méliès opens, you will discover exceptional and exclusive pieces: Méliès’ magician table when he was the director of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin – renovated on the occasion – the movie maker’s camera, a model of his studio, many original drawings, the automaton for Hugo Cabret kindly given to the Cinémathèque by Martin Scorsese to thank to institution for opening him the archives when preparing his movie about Méliès, Méliès’ magician cloak, a big cast of the red Selenite – the maleficent inhabitants welcoming visitors on the Moon in A Trip to the Moon – a large model of the bird head-shaped flying machine in The Impossible Voyage…
As many never-before-seen archives and items related to Méliès and matching the history of the cinema presented in the museum, from the debuts. Therefore, Lumière’s Cinematographer, the original machine that enabled to invent cinema is exhibited in a room of the museum reconstructing the first screening on December 28, 1895 at the Grand Café, as well as a big zoetrope designed by Etiennes-Jules Marey to reproduce birds flying, beautiful magical lamps, and even the robot from Metropolis.
But more contemporary cinema is not left out and is also displayed to be enjoyed by the 7th art fans. Visitors can then discover original sketches for Donkey Skin costumes by Agostino Pace, a model of Spinner – the cars in Blade Runner – a sculpture of the Alien by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the coat from The Grand Budapest Hotel, as well as original storyboards from the first Star Wars movie by George Lucas.
Definitively alive, this new museum owing its staging to Nathalie Crinière aims at being more accessible than the institution’s previous museum of cinema. “This new museum is very different from the ancient one – that was very beautiful but that looked like a cabinet of curiosities. We’ve decided straight away this one would be more didactic, more comprehensible. This is why we chose to include Méliès to more contemporary thinks and easily recognizable by the public. Also, this is a museum one can grasp easily, although Méliès is a long-time character. The exhibition is lively, funny, not sucking all the fun, it teaches us a lot. Everyone can relate, people knowing Méliès very well will only see documents likely to amaze them. Other will discover everything in a very pleasant and interactive way”, the co-curator told us.
As a matter of fact, Musée Méliès chose modernity including – for instance – two virtual reality headsets designed by Ubisoft enabling visitors using them to enter in George Méliès’ studio and enjoy a “very beautiful journey” in the movie maker’s universe. A “special effect jukebox” also enables to discover special effects Méliès invented and understand how they have been reinterpreted or continued by other movie makers since the debuts. “For instance, choose ‘how is a creature made in movies?’ and see how Méliès did, then how it is done today with the current physical and digital techniques”.
And children are not left out! All along the exhibition, room by room, the latter can enjoy plates at their heights with small explanations and easy questions. A paper booklet with the tour shaped as a game and coloring is also available. Children can also have fun by rotating a handle to play a Méliès movie, or even by listening to the movie maker’s voice in an interview given in 1937. “There are many interactive devices all along the way”. The exhibition will also be the occasion to discover the Cinémathèque’s new cinema studios, on the 7th floor, where are provided workshops including one for children, the “Fais ton cinema avec Georges Méliès” workshop will consist in a Georges Méliès-inspired special effect workshop.
Of course, what would a movie museum be without screenings? At Musée Méliès, children and adults can also attend screenings of Méliès movie extracts – and by other movie makers – pacing the way, as well as Méliès movie screenings in similar conditions to the original screenings, music and patters included. “On weekends, there will be shows for everyone and for the youngest. All Méliès movies will be played as a show thanks to storyteller Julien Tauber who created at least 4 shows for the reopening, gathering Méliès movies around major themes such as travel, magic, and the moon. There will be tales, stage effects, and music between the movies”, Sebire unveils.
Furthermore, conferences about Méliès and his work, as well as guided tours will be provided, and the opening of Musée Méliès will come not with a properly-speaking retrospective but a screening program of the movie maker’s movies taking place the entire year to come. “As long as this is a permanent exhibition, there will regularly be Méliès movies screened, at a rate of once a month for at least one year. At the end of the cycle, all movies would have been screened”.
We do not know about you, but we are eager to discover this new movie den!
Dates and Opening Time
Starts 19 May 2021
51 Rue de Bercy
75012 Paris 12
Métro Bercy Lignes : 6, 14
Bus : 24, 64, 87
- de 18 ans: €5
tarif réduit: €7.5
plein tarif: €10