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Rétrospective Jean Painlevé

MUBI Special

“Il n’y aurait pas eu de Nouvelle Vague sans Jean Painlevé et sa camera submersible” – Jean-Luc Godard

Pigeons of the Square

Jean Painlevé France, 1982

Jean Painlevé sits with children in a Parisian park talking about pigeons. First their physical appearance (eye, wings and tail, and color) and their varieties.

Acera, or The Witches' Dance

Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon France, 1972

In mud flats along the coast of Brittany we watch acera, small ball-shaped mollusks that are about two inches in diameter. They rest in mud; then, in water, they dance, their skirt-like hood spreading like a dervish’s cassock. They spin and spin.

The Love Life of the Octopus

Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon France, 1967

The fluid grace of an eight-arm embrace, the silken glance of an inscrutably bulbous eye … Among the most magical films ever made, this is Painlevé’s affectionate portrait of another anomalous sea-creature. The startling soundtrack is by electronic music pioneer, Pierre Henry.

Shrimp Stories

Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon France, 1964

After a comic introduction, we look closely at a shrimp. Eyes on stilts, color patterns, pinchered walking feet, a rostrum. We watch shrimp eat using a strong claw and a fine one; we watch digestion. After eating, shrimp clean themselves.

How Some Jellyfish Are Born

Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon France, 1960

At the Roscoff Marine Biology station in Brittany, a clump of algae reveals polyps, stomachs with limbs, limbs with buds, buds with poison cells…

Calder's 1927 Great Circus

Jean Painlevé France, 1955

Alexander Calder created and performed one of the most important and beloved works, his miniature circus (1926-1931). More than twenty years later Jean Painleve made Le Grande Cirque Calder 1927, begun in 1953 and completed in 1955.

Freshwater Assassins

Jean Painlevé France, 1947

In a freshwater pond, various aquatic creatures try to eat others in order to avoid being eaten themselves.

Le vampire

Jean Painlevé France, 1945

A genial, proto-noir exploration of the vampire as biological archetype. Enlivened by a jaunty Duke Ellington soundtrack, this film is Painlevé’s cheerfully morbid allegory for Nazism.

Voyage to the Sky

Jean Painlevé France, 1937

We begin on planet Earth, with a demonstration of measuring distances using triangulation. Then, an imaginary voyage begins from earth to the moon…

The Sea Horse

Jean Painlevé France, 1934

Painlevé’s most celebrated underwater documentary testifies to the delicate charm of this curious critter. Submarine surrealism, with dramatic footage of a pregnant male seahorse giving birth.


Jean Painlevé France, 1930

Painlevé’s first film on animal behavior, focusing on the Hermit Crab. On this film we see the Hermit Crab trying to find shelter.

Hyas and Stenorhynchus

Jean Painlevé France, 1929

This film is about three animals: Hyas, Macropodia and great fan worms – two crustaceans and one worm. They all present surprising, spectacular plumage.

Sea Urchins

Jean Painlevé France, 1929

A close-up look at sand urchins and rock urchins. At the seashore, Jean Painlevé digs up a sand urchin. We look closely…

The Octopus

Jean Painlevé France, 1928

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.

Life is too short for bad films

Every day we hand-pick a beautiful new film and you have a whole month to watch it, so there’s always 30 perfectly curated films to discover.