at La Villette, in the mind of Tim Burton

There is a bit of a fairground attraction in the exhibition dedicated this summer, in Paris, to Tim Burton. Organized under a huge marquee in the Parc de la Villette (1), it invites you to enter through the gaping mouth of one of its paper monsters, to lift a red velvet curtain, to enter an antechamber and press a buzzer to determine which of the four numbered gates you will start your journey through. It is to a labyrinthine wandering in the universe of the creator populated by strange creatures, more than to a classic exhibition, that this “immersive experience” like a haunted castle.

Regardless of the logic or the chronology, it is up to the visitor to choose their own route by pushing the door of their choice room after room – there would be 300 possible routes – and to be immersed in a new atmosphere. And there they are, all the endearing and sometimes horrifying monsters born from the fertile imagination of its author, from the Oyster Boy inspired by his first collection of poetry, The Sad End of the Oyster Child and Other Stories To Edward Scissorhandspassing by the penguin of Batman. The challengeby Sweeney Todd. The Evil Barber of Fleet Street or even by the mad hatter ofAlice in Wonderland.

Exhibition: at La Villette, in the mind of Tim Burton

A hundred original drawings

Each of them, embodied by a giant figurine, welcomes you to a room where fantastic decors, games of mirrors and lights apply, with unequal happiness, to reproduce the unique atmospheres imagined by Tim Burton. These, inspired by Gothic tales, are however summed up in a few lines simply sketched out in a sketchbook and enhanced with watercolor pastels that we discover in the 150 original drawings that mark out the route.

“Everything I had seen the first time I went to work with Tim on Edward Scissorhands, it was a little drawing that Tim had done. One look at this drawing was all I needed to understand what Edward was.”says Johnny Depp in a quote placed in highlight.

Exhibition: at La Villette, in the mind of Tim Burton

It is moreover to the paper creatures, more than to their cinematographic transcription – no film excerpt is offered on the route – that this attraction, imagined in collaboration with Tim Burton himself, pays homage. And beyond its playful aspect, to be honest very commercial and calibrated for family visits, the collection of these drawings, sometimes suddenly coming to life before your eyes, is in itself worth the detour. Their evocative power is enough to restore the imagination of a sad and lonely child of its creator who loved nothing so much as the horror films consumed in the halls of Burbank in California where he was bored. But also these Halloween or Christmas parties which later inspired the screenplay of The strange Christmas of Mr. Jack.

Through some of its emblematic characters or by theme (puppets, animals, life and death, space, etc.), the exhibition invites us to walk through the mental labyrinth of its creator and his inspiration. Privileging sensory experience over content, it unfortunately passes too quickly over the life and work of the author, neglecting to give visitors some pointers to orient themselves in an abundant work. The other disadvantage is its price (1) which may unfortunately put off some purses.

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