Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé

Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé

His easy blend of poetic populism and hard science may well have informed the presentational styles of later documentary naturalists like Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough, but Painlevé himself was not without his own influences.

Accordingly, this beautifully packaged two-disc collection from BFI also includes two innovative natural science films by Percy Smith, dating back to a decade and a half before Painlevé began documenting sea-life. The Birth of a Flower (1910) is a series of timelapse sequences showing different flowers blooming, while The Strength and Agility of Insects (1911) shows off (in microscopic close-up) the lifting power of a scorpion, an ant, a mantis, flies and a flea.

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Also present is Adrian Klein's Colour on the Thames (1935), apparently included for the sole reason that it, like the Painlevé production Blue Beard (1938), was filmed in Gasparcolor (a colour process whose ill-fated history is given in the excellent accompanying booklet, alongside essays on Painlevé, on each individual film, and on Yo La Tengo). Still, Klein's film is a rare full-colour glimpse at London's steamboats and waterways at a time when Britain was still a maritime empire.

Painlevé the Magician is an 18-minute introduction to the naturalist's life and works by academic Dr Michaël Abecassis, who reveals, inter alia, that Painlevé provided the ant sequence in Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's seminal slice of surrealism Un Chien Andalou (1929), and that he helped launch Georges Franju's filmmaking career by writing the script for Le Sang des Bêtes (1949).

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2007
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Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé packshot
Collection of groundbreaking films from the French documentarian.
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Product Code: BFIVD719

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.33:1

Sound: Stereo 2.0

Extras: Filmed introduction, two short films by Percy Smith, a short film by Adrian Klein, a second disc featuring a new score for Painlevé's films by Yo La Tengo

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