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Full disclosure, as they say: I was a vampire fanatic as a kid, reading classic tomes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Le Fanu’s Carmilla, flipping through Vampirella comic books, stealthily watching late-night Grade Z movies on cable TV. An uncle visiting from Greece and sleeping in the rec room was unnerved by the Dark Shadows posters pasted on the walls. The popular new show at the French Cinémathèque, Vampires: From Dracula to Buffy, proves that I wasn’t the only one.
What is it about the vampire that made it a genre superstar? The zombie is a portrayal of mindless appetite, consumerism gone mad. The werewolf depicts the animal in all of us, Frankenstein spin-offs (including a new novel by Jeanette Winterson) critique runaway patriarchal science, mummies and other ancient creatures warn us about history’s dark side. There are also psychological monsters (“We all go a little mad sometimes,” as Norman Bates says) and of course horrific aliens are the Other from Out There.
The vampire myth seems more complex. It deals with death and immortality but also sex, love, spirituality, exoticism, decadence, power and even glamor. It’s no coincidence that among horror icons, it’s almost exclusively the actor-as-vampire, from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to Robert Pattinson, Isabelle Adjani, David Bowie and Grace Jones who become superstar sex symbols on a global scale.
The exhibit, which features guided visits, explores not only why the public has been endlessly attracted to the undead, but also why artists from Goya to Warhol have been fascinated, drawn to make their own contributions to the myth. It examines not only samples from movies but television series and art and photography. The visitor will discover a number of specially curated artworks: haunted manses by French symbolist Redon, nightmare visions by the German Alfred Kubin, collages by the surrealist Max Ernst, the female vampires of Argentine painter Leonor Fini, works by Nikki Saint-Phalle and more.
There are many films on the program. They range from schlock (Dracula 73) to classics (Theodore Dreyer’s Vampyres) to horror auteur fare (John Carpenter’s Vampires and Wes Craven’s A Vampire in Brooklyn) to blaxploitation (Blacula) and Latin contributions (El Gran Amor de Conde Dracula). There’s an exhaustive catalogue (265 pages) on sale for 35 euros, but it’s apparently only in French (lots of great photos, though).
The exhibit’s Jeudis Jeunes (Thursdays for Young People), offers a special visit, talks on the vampire genre, as well as a screening. There will also be a Halloween event dedicated to Tim Burton, a workshop (In the Shadow of the Vampire), and a storyteller who provides an oral tour of the vampire legend throughout history. Halloween Night will not only include screenings but also a virtual reality event, make-up demonstrations, a costume competition, plus refreshments and musical entertainment. The high point of the exhibit and retrospective is Halloween, but it runs until January 19. Visit www.cinemathèque.fr for information on schedule and tickets.
La Cinémathèque française, 51 Rue de Bercy, 12th.
Metro: Bercy (lines 6, 14)
Tel: +33 (0)1-71-19-33-33
Full-price ticket for the exhibition: 11 €
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Dessins et détails dans l’exposition VAMPIRES, DE DRACULA À BUFFY. Ouverture des portes de 11h à 20h pendant les vacances scolaires de Toussaint ! #expovampires #vampires #josephapoux #maxernst #timburton #gustavedore #dessins #details #dracula #buffy #expoparis #cinematheque
Lead photo credit : Image credit: Facebook, La Cinémathèque française