Science Is Fiction 23 Films by Jean Painleve
Jean Painleve was a film director, critic, theorist, and animator, yet his interests and studies also extended to mathematics, medicine, and zoology. Amazingly, all these disparate strands came together in a groundbreaking, decades-spanning artistic career. Operating under the credo: Science is fiction, Painleve forged his own unique cinematic path, creating countless short films for both the viewing public and the scientific community. Moreover, he was also one of the first filmmakers to take his camera underwater. Surreal, otherworldly documents of marine life, these films transformed sea horses, octopi, and mollusks into delicate dancers in their own floating ballets.

3xDVD9 | NTSC 4:3 | 313 minutes | 22.1 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Francais
Subtitles: English
Genre: Documentary, Short

The three-disc Criterion DVD set Science Is Fiction: 23 Films By Jean Painleve contains a 90-minute program of assorted Painleve footage backed by a Yo La Tengo live performance, along with a three-hour documentary about Painleve and the 23 unadulterated films cited in the title. It’s those originals that are the set’s real selling-point.

The films run the gamut from 1978’s “Liquid Crystals”—six minutes of swirling color set to a free-form orchestral score—to the relatively more straightforward 1967 short “The Love Life Of The Octopus,” which delivers useful-but-creepy information about octopus mating habits. Throughout his career, Painleve made films for scientific researchers to use, films for the avant-garde crowd, and films for classrooms and general audiences. Science Is Fiction offers samples of each, and while some of the lengthier silent studies from the ‘20s can get a little tedious, films like “ACERA, or The Witches’ Dance”—which documents the balletic courtship ritual of a small mollusk—are astoundingly beautiful.

Even more remarkable than the way Painleve’s work catches the eye though is how multi-layered it so often is. Science Is Fiction contains one of Painleve’s most famous films, 1945’s “The Vampire,” which uses bats as a metaphor for Nazism, but the set also features films that emphasize the kinky sexuality and alternative methods of organizing among animals, covertly arguing for a more libertine perspective in human society. Painleve could blow minds—as in his jaw-dropping “The Fourth Dimension,” which explains dimensional space via juxtapositions and manipulations that Luis Bunuel would envy—but he was just as content to lull an audience with pretty pictures of birds and fish, while subtly changing the way they perceived the world around them.

Disc One


• HYAS amd STENORHYNCHUS (1927, 10 mins, B&W)
• Sea Urchine (1954, 11 mins, Color)
• How Some Jellyfish Are Born (1960, 14 mins, B&W)
• Liquid Crystals (1978, 6 mins, Color)
• The Sea Horse (1933, 14 mins, B&W)
• The Love Life of the Octopus (1967, 14 mins, Color)
• Shrimp Stories (1964, 10 mins, Color)
• ACERA, or The Witches' Dance (1972, 13 mins, Color)
• The Vampire (1945, 9 mins, B&W)
• Freshwater Assassins (1947, 24 mins, B&W)
• Sea Ballerinas (1956, 13 mins, Color)
• Diatoms (1968, 17 mins, Color)
• Pigeons in the Square (1982, 27 mins, Color)


• Eight films with original score by Yo La Tengo
• Interview with Yo La Tengo

Disc Two


• The Octopus (1927, 13 mins, B&W)
• Sea Urchins (1928, 10 mins, B&W)
• Daphnia (1928, 9 mins, B&W)


• The Stickleback's Egg (1925, 26 mins, B&W)
• Experimental Treatment of a Hemorrhage in a Dog (1930, 4 mins, B&W)


• The Fourth Dimension (1936, 10 mins, B&W)
• The Struggle for Survival (1937, 11 mins, B&W)
• Voyage to the Sky (1937, 11 mins, B&W)
• Similarities Between Length and Speed (1937, 10 mins, B&W)


• Blubeard (1938, 13 mins, Gasparcolor)

Disc Three

• Eight-part French TV series "Jean Painleve Through His Films"