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Paris: The Invention of Cinema at the Grand Palais


Who invented cinema, a discovery that revolutionized the worlds of entertainment and news?

The question is as old as the medium itself and has been debated in France and the United States for the past 120 years. It finally seems to have found an answer at the Grand Palais with the exhibition Lumière, Le cinéma inventé.

The decisive event took place on December 28th, 1895. In the Salon Indien of the Grad Café in Paris (now the Hôtel Scribe), a new attraction thrilled the crowd: the Lumière brothers projected a stream of photographs on a screen. For a few days, thousands of people paid entry to witness the screening of ten films. The photographs, on celluloid film, were projected at 16 frames per second. This physical and psychological phenomenon, called the “persistence of vision,” gives the illusion not of a succession of still images but of continuous movement. The effect is stunning—the Lumière Brothers had just invented the cinema.

This elegant and ingenious exhibition reconstructs the Salon Indien with 35 velvet seats, making visitors feel they were present at that first screening. Touring the exhibition doesn’t leave one feeling stuck in the past, but rather it takes us through the industry’s technological evolutions. There are models of the Lumière factory, cameras and the photo accessories they developed. Family photographs shot by Antoine capture the industrial era, but it’s by looking at the 1422 films shot around the world between 1895 and 1905, screened simultaneously in a magnificent mosaic, glimmering like fireworks, that one grasps the extent of the revolution they began. The projection of the investigation Side by Side, led by Keanu Reeves, analyzes the transition from film to digital, complemented by a fun children’s space.

While it may not be clear why photographs by William Klein and Stephan Crasneanscki are  here—they’re supposed to relate to the forgotten Godard archives the facades of New York movie theatres—the exhibition layout, by curators Thierry Frémaux and Jacques Gerber, as well as the architect-designer Nathalie Crinière, invites visitors to reflect and wander through these strikingly modern autochromes.

The exhibition, however, is not immune to the new practice of making shows like a souvenir shop as soon as one enters, reminding us of the commodification of museums today… But why let something so little ruin so much fun?

Lumière, Le Cinéma inventé
From March 27th to June 14th, 2015
Grand Palais
Salon d’Honneur
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower
75008 Paris
Sunday and Monday 10am – 8pm. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 10am – 10pm
Rate: 9 / 13 €

Salon d’Honneur

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