We are incredibly lucky to live just an hour and a bit away from Lyon. It’s jam-packed with historical sites, Roman ampitheatres, wonderful cathedrals and museums. The restaurants and bouchons are said to serve the best food in France. So yesterday we jumped at the opportunity to visit Lyon for lunch and an afternoon’s sightseeing.
Louis XIV in the Place Bellecour with Notre Dame de Fourvière behind
In the Place Bellecour we found lots of tourists enjoying the sunshine. We crossed the Saône by the Pont Bonaparte into Vieux Lyon, much of which dates from the 16th century.
We passed the Cathedral of St Jean and continued to the Maison des Avocats which houses the object of our visit, the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema. www.museeminiatureetcinema.fr
The Maison des Avocats
While working as a cabinetmaker in Paris, Dan Ohlmann began creating miniature furniture in 1985. In 1987 he built a scale replica of Chez Maxim’s restaurant which brought him to the attention of the public. After staging travelling exhibitions as far afield as Japan and New Zealand he came to settle in Lyon and was given the use of the Maison des Avocats. Since 2005 he has been exhibiting his miniature collection as well as collecting models used in films and setting up a department devoted to the techniques of special effects.
The lower floors are devoted to film sets such as those used for Perfume; The Story of a Murderer. It is incredible to see the amount of detail the set designers have put into recreating authentic sets representative of the era.
Set from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
There is a room full of huge props such as the huge flying boat used in The Three Musketeers and the White House from Independence Day. A video showed how these models were incorporated into the film using green screen techniques and computer generated images. I was most impressed with the model of the train that crashed through the wall in Montparnasse station in 1895 and the video on how this event was reconstructed for the film Hugo.
Reconstruction of the train accident at Montparnasse station 1895
There were many costumes, prosthetics and latex masks used for sci-fi films. The animatronics as used in Gremlins were very clever. Amongst the smaller props there was even Harry Potter’s wand and the Hogwart’s letter. All the artifacts were those actually used in the films. And we saw many famous characters from R2D2 to Stuart Little.
Upstairs were rooms dedicated to the miniature world, scenes of an artist’s studio or violin maker’s shop scaled down to a minute size. Everything was so realistic. There were models of famous restaurants, copied from the real thing using thousands of photos.
Dan Ohlmann and his model of Chez Maxim's
At the top of the building were miniature works of art. There were carvings from matchsticks and a section on paper cutting. You needed a magnifying glass to examine the tree with more than 300 branches cut out of a piece of paper the size of a centime. A young Japanese girl had cut out a French proverb on a slip of paper. With scissors! Hours and hours of painstaking work.
We were lucky enough to see Dan Ohlmann himself in his workshop where he was restoring film memorabilia. Thanks to him we had had an afternoon to remember.
ps Coming out of Lyon on the metro we were amused to see this poster -
I think our friend and guide Marie Antoinette quite thought she’d adopted two!