An octopus slithers over objects on land – a doll, a skull – then oozes along the shore into the sea. It secretes its ink. The camera follows it along rocks into deeper water, watching closely as it breathes. Its eye is closed then open. Simple titles, in French and German, suggest what to watch. The octopus alternates the use of breathing tubes on either side. It changes color as cells on its skin contract or dilate. Extreme magnification helps us see these changes. Two struggle, one dies. On shore, fishermen catch them and put them in pails. A single tentacle still has life. Back in the sea, two octopi attack a crab. Soon only a couple of crab legs are visible in the mouth of the victor. —IMDb
Jean Painlevé (20 November 1902 – 2 July 1989) was a film director, actor, translator, animator, critic and theorist. He was the son of mathematician and twice prime-minister of France, Paul Painlevé.
Painlevé first came to the cinema as an actor, alongside Michel Simon, and also as assistant director in the René Sti unfinished film L’inconnue des six jours (The Unknown Woman of Six Days), 1926. (Later, he would appear as “chief ant handler” in Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, 1928). Soon, he was shooting his own films, starting with L’œuf d’épinoche : de la fécondation à l’éclosion, 1927.
Painlevé sometimes scored the music and background sounds for his films, such as in Les Oursins, where the collage of noise is a homage to Edgar Varese.
In order to shoot scenes underwater, Painlevé encased his camera in a custom designed waterproof box, fitted with a glass plate which allowed the camera’s lens to reach through. Understandably… read more