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Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painleve DVD

Jean Painlevé, 1927-78


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Film Details

Directed by Jean Painlevé

Produced in 1927-78

Main Language - French with English subtitles

Countries & Regions - European Film, French Film

MovieMail's Review

A pioneer in the realm of natural science films, who aimed to entertain as well as instruct (outraging the purists by so doing), Jean Painlevé, along with his partner Geneviève Hamon, made over 200 films of mysterious nature in all its squirming, twitching, teeming, lubricious glory. Set to a range of musical accompaniment (Love Life of the Octopus sounds like Delia Derbyshire and the BBC radiophonic workshop let loose with their oscillators on an episode of Life on Earth), they are eccentric, delightful, and have an eye to the poetry of events.
This selection is filled with magical moments – acera bobbing though the water like angels in a quattrocento fresco, a shrimp shedding its casing 'like a ghost emerging from its diaphanous cloak", a male seahorse expelling its young, or (to a Duke Ellington number), a grimacing vampire bat suckling blood from a guinea pig; this last film gaining allegorical resonance from being made at the end of WWII.

Anonymous on 21st May 2007
Author of 299 reviews

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Film Description

A pioneer of science films with a poetic bent, Jean Painlevé (1902-1989) explored a twilight realm of vampire bats, seahorse, octopuses, and liquid crystals. He made more than 200 films and his astonishing documentaries are a genuinely enchanting 'magic realism' based on his premise that ‘science is fiction’. Though he scandalized the scientific world with a cinema designed to entertain as well as edify, his films were much admired by Surrealist contemporaries such as Antonin Artaud, Luis Bunuel and Jean Vigo and were set to avant-garde scores.

This is a selection from fifty years of passionate scientific enquiry which includes Painlevé’s most famous films - The Sea Horse, The Vampire, The Love Life of the Octopus and Sea Urchins – along with their often amazing music.

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Publisher: BFI

Length: 215 mins

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Format: DVD Colour

Region: 2

Released: 11th June 2007

Cat No: BFIVD719

Subtitles: English

DVD Extras

  • 2 discs
  • Filmed introduction by academic Dr Michael Abecassis
  • Two short films by Percy Smith: The Birth of a Flower (1910), The Strength and Agility of Insects (1911)
  • A short Gasparcolour film by Adrian Klein: Colour on the Thames (1935)
  • Booklet with biog and essays by Brigitte Berg, Jim Knox, Dr William Moritz and Mark Norris. Disc Two: Soundtrack by US band Yo La Tengo, commissioned by San Francisco International Film Festival.

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