Jean Painlevé

Probably no substantial dimension of film history has been so thoroughly ignored by American film critics, historians, and theorists as the nature film (or “wildlife film”): those works of cinema that purport to reveal the lives of other species. This lack of scholarly attention seems to have resulted from the mistaken assumption that nature filmmakers do not reveal any philosophical or cinematic vision in their work, that nature films merely present facts. In recent years, a few books have begun to correct this misconception, including Gregg Mitman’s Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wild life on Film, Derek Bousé’s Wildlife Films, Cynthia Chris’s Watching Wildlife, and Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé, edited by Andy Masaki Bellows and Marina McDougall, with Birgitte Berg. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule, and we have a long way to go before the accomplishments of this aspect of cinema history are appreciated and understood. In coming to terms with the immense world of nature cinema, a very good place to begin, as Science Is Fiction makes clear, is with French scientist-educator-filmmaker Jean Painlevé, whose groundbreaking work consistently revealed not only a commitment to informed science and effective communication but to the creative expression of ideas as well.
Scott Macdonald

Let’s face it…Science is Cool, Always has been. With that being said let’s focus on Jean Painlevé, the French scientist/filmmaker/theorist who led a very interesting life full of films, essays, plays, and biological research. He was a very modern thinker, and at one point was even affiliated with the Dada and Surrealist movements. He collaborated with Yvan Goll and when Man Ray needed starfish footage for his L’étoile de mer (1928), Painlevé worked his magic. His “Science” films (even though some were made over 70 years ago) are pretty stunning. And he was one of the first people to get underwater footage, by putting his camera in a custom designed waterproof box with a glass plate which allowed the lens to shoot…clever. 23 of his films available on a great 3-DVD collection called “Science Is Fiction“.

Here’s one film about Liquid Crystals…awesome electronic soundtrack starts after credits

And here’s another great one about the “vampire” bat, and it also has Seahorses and Octopuses…sorry no English subtitles

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2 thoughts on “Jean Painlevé

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