May 9, 2001

7:30 PM


American Cinematheque presents...

Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé

Program compiled by Marie Jager and Gwen Deglise - Program notes Marie Jager.

Tickets available 30 days in advance.



SCHEDULE (by series)

SCHEDULE (by date)








At the forefront of the Surrealist movement, Jean Painlevé was the director of about 200 short, sharp and luxuriant films, many focusing on aquatic fauna. A loner, though befriended by Vigo, Eisenstein and Artaud, he spent his life in a singularly obstinate pursuit of recording the uncannily familiar behavior of infinitely small creatures, set to scores by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Pierre Henry, Darius Milhaud… Painlevé approaches his subjects with wit and an almost jubilant curiosity. These short, wondrous documentaries are among the great hidden treasures of French cinema.


SCIENCE IS FICTION: THE FILMS OF JEAN PAINLEVÉ, (71 min total). One of the first films to use underwater footage, "The Sea horse", 1934, 14 min., combines beautiful Black & White cinematography and a Darius Milhaud score, with an amazingly dramatic shot of the male Sea horse giving birth! "How Jellyfishes Are Born", 1960 , 14 min., underlines the variety of the species, all breeding differently, to a music composed by Pierre Conté. "The Sea Urchins", 1954 , 11 min., Painlevé's first color science film, ventures into the forest of spines to reveal breathing, reproductive and feeding habits. Painlevé wrote the music in homage to Edgar Varèse - an organized noise made of pans and forks. "Acera Or The Witches", 1972, 13 min., combines an incredibly gracious choreography of the animal's dances on a music composed by Pierre Jansen, with the description of the mating rituals of these hermaphrodite blobs. The extraordinary "Lovelife Of The Octopus", 1965, 13 min., filmed in an aquarium, studies in close-up breathing, feeding and reproductive processes of the Octopus. The music, composed by the founder of electronic music, Pierre Henry, and the poetic narration, give humor and irony to the scientific account of this terrifying animal. "Liquid Crystals", 1976, 6 min., are sensitive to temperature, pressure, humidity and their molecular structure changes shape and color accordingly. For the first time Painlevé synchronizes the images to the music, and not the reverse. The result is an astonishing ballet of light and sound!


Book signing before and after the screening with the editors Andy Masaki Bellows, Marina Mc Dougall and Brigitte Berg of the first English book on Jean Painlevé, Science Is Fiction, The Films Of Jean Painlevé.