The special programme “Expanded Painlevé”, conceived with guest curator Federico Rossin, combines the films of Jean Painlevé, surrealist poet of wildlife, with those by filmmakers from the American and European avant-garde who have pursued different modes of openness to the animal world.
An all-analogue programme that performs a waggle dance among inhuman displacements like the aptitudinal spinning and peeping motion of the camera’s gaze (Cécile Fontaine, Safari Land), or rather by way of filmic light geometries (Guy Sherwin, Animal Studies). In due time it seems to be carnivorously devoured, inside-out, by vectors of political contagions (Jean Painlevé, Le Vampire and Joyce Wieland, Rat Life and Diet in North America). Farther, swinging on the brink of insolite departures of the self, the programme encounters protoplasmic seductions by means of aquatic frameworks (Jean Painlevé, Crabes et Crevettes), as much as by optical enclosures within marshy micro environments (Jean Painlevé, Descente de la mer en accéléré). It progressively sneaks through calm observations activated by in-camera-composed images as they transform in time (Rose Lowder, Tartarughe d'acqua), culminating in superimposed filmic epitomes of magical creatureliness (Stan Brakhage, The Loom).
Broadly, the programme brings insights into animal–human–technology entanglements, showing interspecies encounters as catalysts for magnificent hysteria, substitution play, electric unconscious flow, zoomorphic reorientation and hypnotic ecstasy.
Specifically chasing Jean Painlevé's human presence (a sort of Baudelairean wound and knife coexistence) embodied by his film commentary, the programme displays the inside-out dissolution of his voice leading to a reverse inner chronological order. Bringing into play the same subject, the Octopus, through different subaquatic elsewheres, it starts with the talkie Les amours de la pieuvre, 1967, and ends with the silent poem La Pieuvre, 1925. On doing so, it chimerically redeems Jean Painlevé's harmful departure from his purposeful self-identification as partisan of “pure cinema”. In short, what Painlevè praises as the essential photographic rhythm of film découpage.
What is more, valuing his vocation of embracing the strange, stimulated by a non-anthropocentric anthropomorphic appetite, and casting it as a mutual encounter with different times and cinematographic approaches, the programme prioritizes an ahistorical pace where the signifier appears fragmentary yet overflowing with significance. Valorising film’s materiality as specificity, it tends to display how, upon encountering the animal, the representation at play calls for its partial self-defacement by presentation. The imagery, as such, gains the carnal, cruel presence that Painlevé argues is a surrealistic attitude, one using optical enlargements as zoological affectations which he broadly calls “trop-objéts”. The object namely tends to regain its status of material objectivity, exceeding generously the form that attempts to shape it.
Conversely, quite far from purity, his commentary, giving in to distribution demands and commercial obligations due to the arrival of sound in film, turns around a bizarre compound, roaming on the verge of mocking detachment, live prosopopoeia of whiteness and literacy of dis-education.
In conclusion, progressively contaminated by a frantic negrophilia given the Surrealistic inquiry, and broadly addressing savagery peculiarly shaped by jungle-skits-growling Jazz affectations, Painlevé’s work above all reshapes itself through a sort of dehumanized corps morcelés as does the theatrical nature of Stan Brakhage's enclosure to wildlife. As for the latter, biting Georges Méliès, the animals exist as if on stage, and are edited as if by the rigour of dance, an outer limit, to date, of his own art.
- Jean Painlevé - Les amours de la pieuvre - The Love Life of the Octopus
1967 / 16mm / colour / sound / 1S / 13' 00
- Guy Sherwin - Animal Studies
1998-2004 / 16mm / b&w / silent / 1S / 25' 00
- Jean Painlevé - Le Vampire - The Vampire
1939-1945 / 16mm / b&w / sound / 9' 00 English (Subs)
- Joyce Wieland - Rat Life and Diet in North America
1969 / 16mm / colour / sound / 1S / 16' 01
- Jean Painlevé - Descente de la mer en accèlèrè
1960 / 16mm / colour / sound / single screen / 3' 00 /
- Cécile Fontaine - Safari Land
1996 / 16mm / colour-b&w / sound / 1S / 10' 00
- Jean Painlevé - Crabes - Crabs
1930 / 16mm / b&w / sound / 1S / 8' 00
- Rose Lowder - Tartarughe d'acqua
2016 / 16mm / colour / silent / 1S / 24' 32
- Jean Painlevé - Crevettes (La faune sous-marine) - Shrimps
1930 / 16mm / b&w / sound / 1S / 8' 00
- Stan Brakhage - The Loom
1986 / 16mm / colour / silent / 1S / 42' 29
- Jean Painlevé - La Pieuvre - The Octopus
1925 / 35mm / b&w / silent / 1S / 10' 00