If I were to define the concept “one man band” I would probably try to get inspiration from the figure of Georges Méliès (1861-1931), a Parisian from the mid 19th century that, despite the choice he could have taken to enjoy a quiet life as a “grandeur” and a businessman in the luxury shoe industry (initially taught by his father), he decided to get his life that little bit more complicated by claiming his part of the inheritance and get into the world of pictures and cinema, still to be discovered. It was actually in this field of arts that he played every possible role. Méliès worked as a cartoonist, magician, theatre director, actor, decorator, dressmaker, technician and also producer and distributor of over 500 films, totally handmade, between 1896 and 1912.
CaixaFòrum Tarragona is now paying tribute to this man and will home the exhibition “Georges Méliès, the magic of cinema” until 10 January, an essential showing in order to understand his majesty and his undeniable role as one of the fathers of cinematography. It is not in vain that Méliès is fairly considered one of the pioneers of cinema and special effects. Anna Catà, from Auriga Serveis Culturals, will provide you with the best guided tour round the exhibition.
Using the part of the inheritance he deserved –his brothers got the luxury shoe company–, Georges bought a theatre he used to make his dreams come true: Chinese shadow puppets, magical lanterns and optical cases (the dioramas of today), adding the perspective and all the previous inventions to the player that would then give birth to cinema. Contemporary and neighbour of the Lumière brothers (Louis and Auguste), generally considered as the discoverers of the seventh art, Georges Méliès could be attributed the initial success of the project… and its deterioration, for the benefit of the major industries.
The exhibition at CaixaFòrum allows us for a deeper, more profound look at the Méliès that reigned, like the Sun King, over the world of fantasy genre and trick photography, with techniques that, despite having been improved nowadays, they’re still very present in many of the contemporary films, such as the Harry Potter saga. Georges Méliès succeeded in making a whole generation dream, even though they were not that sure about this incipient seventh art since they wouldn’t really hesitate before going away from the cinema when presented with certain effects. The French filmmaker would use special effects such as the illusionism, pyrotechnics, optical illusions, horizontal and vertical foldouts, camera stops, small electric shocks, dissolved transitions, overprints… he was really ahead of its time.
The tribute paid to Méliès in this very recommended showing homed by CaixaFòrum Tarragona shows the very early years of the French filmmaker, his golden age, with projects later plagiarised in the USA, and his decline. Films, models –like the cinema studio he built–, dressings, decorations, characters, inventions, personal objects… the exhibition is a tour round the Méliès universe.
As for the ending, this doesn’t differ that much from an actual film. After rejecting the family business to go on an adventure towards an unknown world, plagiarisms, changes on trending and, mainly, the industrialisation of the sector, ended up on him being absolutely broke. Thus, completely trapped by debts, he decided to sell his studios and his film collection to a man that would then reuse them to create toys… and shoes. And there it is, the end of the film; of a sad film.
CaixaForum Tarragona: Carrer Cristòfor Colom, 2 (next to Font del Centenari), 43001 Tarragona.
Mondays to Fridays, 9am – 9pm
Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, 11am – 2pm & 4pm – 9pm
Guided tours for general public:
Catalan, Saturdays at 7pm
Spanish, Sundays at 7pm
Guided tours for groups:
By agreement, day and time, at +34 977 249 871
Price per group, 60€ (maximum, 25 people)