- SCIENCE IS FICTION: The Films of Jean Painlevé
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My Collection. Criterion Collection. My Criterion Collections. Mubi's Top Highest Rated Films. Use the HTML below. You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin. Photos Add Image Add an image Do you have any images for this title? Learn more More Like This. Sea Urchins Documentary Short. Daphnia Freshwater Assassins Documentary Biography. Something Wild Comedy Crime Romance. Diatoms A short overview on the life and importance of diatoms, shown through a microscope. Le vampire Jean Vigo on his deathbed, Jean Comandon had presented a film about the syphilis spirochete to a similar reaction.
Scientists, though, were not the only ones skeptical of the legitimacy of science film. While editing the original copy of The. He hastily assembled a second copy for the screening at the academy but inadvertently put one of the sequences in backward. Several specialists approached him asking to see the film again. He immediately rushed home and quickly turned the sequence back around. The specialists never again saw the strange phenomenon of the heart rejecting the corpuscles instead of attracting them. The French avant-garde, however, embraced his work from the very beginning.
Jaubert chose a composition by Vincenzo Bellini. For one of the scenes, Jaubert recorded the music normally, then played it backward, achieving a dreamlike effect. Thus, Blue Beard was conceived. Blue Beard would take three painstaking years to finish. Amsterdam, they posted sentries at the theater door to watch for police. There, too, the screening was interrupted by police. So the group moved again. In the course of one evening, the group moved six times, but in the end Battleship Potemkin was shown in its entirety.
Afterward, we wandered around the Clichy fairgrounds. He wanted to see Valeska Gert, a Swiss actress he adored. In other words, I wanted to re-establish the balance between male and female.
SCIENCE IS FICTION: The Films of Jean Painlevé
The filming, which took place in the Bay of Arcachon, was ardu-. Moreover, the diving equipment he used was crude, so his movements were limited. Essentially tethered to a boat, his breathing apparatus was connected, by a ten-meter-long hose, to a manually operated air pump located above water. But what bothered me most was that at one point I was no longer getting any air. I rose hurriedly to the surface only to find the two seamen quarreling over the pace at which the wheel should be turned.
Raymond fell asleep. Promotional postcard for Hippocampe jewelry, Photo: Philippe Halsman. Hippocampe boutique in Printemps department store, At the end of the war, Nauny made off with the profits and absconded to Monaco where he was never heard from again. Indeed, he dreamed of one day creating a studio—complete with film equipment, scientific apparatus, and technicians—entirely underwater. Two years later, he traveled to Poland with members of numerous organizations including the World League of Human Rights and Friends of the Polish Nation to report on the conditions of Berezasa-Kartowska, an internment camp for political prisoners.
Thus, Halsman and Ylla chose to emigrate to the United States. Governments may be able to fabricate statistics about agricultural or industrial production, but they cannot invent literature, art, or science. In making these films, he collaborated with Achilles Pierre Dufour, the inventor of Simplifilm, a special effects technique that superimposes one image over another in the same exposure.
Among them was Desmodus rotundus, or the Brazilian vampire bat, so named for its habit of feeding on the blood of other animals. In response, Britain and France immediately declared war. Nine months later, German troops arrived in Paris, flying swastikas from its historical buildings. The saleswoman told them he had already left Paris. Though film production resumed in December , the French film industry was in shambles. As soon as we get coal, we run out of film stock. He created the Superior Technical Committee CST , whose task was to promote new and more efficient film production techniques, and the Federation of Spectators, whose aim was to increase audience numbers.
Franju would go on to become a renowned director of such feature films as the celebrated Eyes without a Face. In , the ICS held its first conference, a three-day event at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, screening thirty-eight science films from around the world. The AICS, until ceasing its activities in , held international conferences where hundreds of films from all over the world were screened. Made up of scientists and filmmakers from twenty countries, the AICS was divided into three groups, each concentrating on a different kind of science film: research, educational, or popular.
From the beginning, however, there was conflict. The discussions were endless, hours and hours spent quibbling and splitting hairs. I took Madison along. We had our photo taken. The president and vice-president in drag. The rest had no interest in taking over, even if they did have a different point of view. Early on, the British filmmaker John Grierson wanted to exclude a group of Eastern European filmmakers. Unfortunately this disagreement proved fatal, and the union disbanded shortly after. The participants.
In short, they will be beautiful grandchildren. ARTEM, though, had a less than auspicious beginning. The soundtrack sounded like someone emitting ridiculous little farts. Up for the challenge, Beausoleil traversed the waterway, arriving on the other side smiling, an octopus wrapped around his leg.
He was therefore obliged to stick his face right up against the script, close to the microphone, where one could hear his emphysema. One of them, however, he saw differently. In ,. For one such experiment, he superimposed two images that were identical except for a slight time lag between their electronic signals. The produced effect was akin to a three-dimensional image.
Then finally, to relieve the incessant pain and make walking easier, he had an operation on his lumbar vertebrae. The procedure relieved the pain, but he was never able to walk unaided again. The film con-. He was eighty-six years old. In many ways, he was describing himself. Notes 1. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew, was wrongly convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment amid an extreme atmosphere of anti-Semitism.
Although it was revealed that much of the evidence against Dreyfus had been forged by a colonel in army intelligence, the military court was unwilling to admit error. A game popular with the Surrealists where players would each contribute words to a piece of paper folded to conceal the preceding contributions, producing a sentence of humorous conjunctions.
Catherine Tchernigovtzeff, research scientist. The two became lifelong friends. He used one of them, a portrait of a pigeon, in his last film, Pigeons of the Square, as a tribute to Ylla who died in after falling from a jeep while photographing a bull race in Barathpur, India.
A process in which microbes are attracted by electricity produced by an organism. Rarely do they lead us to question our ideas about how we view other species, let alone humanity itself, nor do they regularly challenge our aesthetic assumptions. Starting from clinical matter-of-factness, they seamlessly move to poetically charged whimsy and macabre perversity.
They can be droll as well as ghoulish, dreamlike as well as harrowingly detailed. Indeed, his approach to filmmaking sometimes seems like an adventure in the aesthetics of uncanniness. Freud, among others, suggested that this uncertainty revolves around a question of familiarity: we experience the uncanny when faced with the normal rendered suspicious, the familiar made unfamiliar—of which a prime, but by.
His film on Pantopoda prompts viewers to wonder whether these eight-legged creatures are crustaceans or spiders, and in his stylish meditation Hyas and Stenorhynchus, he shows us clumps of walking underwater vegetables, which turn out to be crabs enjoying a fashionable promenade in seaweed camouflage. Far more commonly, though, we are asked to focus on movements that seem less familiar. The flowing ease made possible underwater gives many of these movements a balletlike grace, and they appeal to the delight we take in watching movement of all kinds—a facility evident in infants as well as in those elderly people one sees in older urban neighborhoods leaning out of tenement windows to watch the hustle and bustle below.
Freshwater Assassins features a more frenetic style of dance, as tiny transparent carnivores dragonflies, planorbids, and hydrophilic beetles engage in ferocious orgies of violence, pulsating to a hot jazz soundtrack featuring tunes by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, among others. The flipside of such awkwardness, of course, is the puppet or dummy that moves and speaks with such perfect mimicry that we are hard-pressed not to accept it as being alive.
For this reason, spectacles of mindless movement can be uncanny in and of themselves, evoking a deathly egolessness hence the uncanniness of the severely retarded or the fantasy of empty vessels controlled by an invisible or absent intelligence a fantasy prompted by synchronized swimming displays, for instance, in which near-perfect performers take on the quality of automatons. Our aesthetics, then, imbue such displays with a haunting quality, spooked by the specter of the inhuman, behind which lurks our fear of death. Watching their energetic gyrations, their blind and slightly frantic dance, it is easy to feel.
The utter mindlessness of their furious activity, exacerbated by their infinite numbers, makes for a disconcerting image, yet there is something else here that gnaws at us as well: though not regulated by an individual intelligence, these movements are functional and reflect an intelligence— environmental and evolutionary—that is far vaster than our own puny claim in that area.
Perhaps, then, it is this sublime conceptual landscape that makes us a little edgy, as it makes our most precious human currency—our vaunted intellectual capacity—appear dwarfed and diminished by comparison. Fans used in fan dances look. Simple identification is out of the question, however; more likely, our own prized uniqueness may suddenly seem a little less secure, given its context in this dizzying theater of metamorphosis.
The effect produced by such a revelation can be nausea as well as delight. In one scene, a profoundly exasperated Herzog appears in a jungle. But it is telling that his anger vents in the form of disgust. That nature is obscene and foul rather than wondrous or picturesque— this is truly the civilized point of view. In this schema, stasis, like still water, offers clarity, and this aesthetic is reflected in the static, fixed classifications favored by the puritans of science.
There is a Sufi tradition in which certain esoteric ideas are communicable to initiates only through dance; the performers themselves become the changing letters of a text that can be read only in movement. Here is a dream image of meaning as something inseparable from life as it is actively lived. Perhaps this outsider position is why we give vision, rather than feeling and internal sensation, such an important role in our practice of knowledge: to see is to. Some people, no doubt, will dismiss them as incoherent or trivial precisely because they comprise such a disconcerting mix of elements.
Methuselah takes the skull from him, substituting a Methuselah shoe. The director Grivas objects. The heirs follow on scooters, arguing over the inheritance. A fight breaks out. The sun plays on the water, flowers are blossoming, each tentacle of the sea anemone is loaded with poison. The giant oysters open to the gentle current and close greedily on whatever prey passes their lips.
This lazy creature ejects the residue of digestion simply by opening its mouth—the garden needs fertilizer to thrive. Every hue is gathered here: shades of crystal purple brought by sea urchins and starfish, blues from the canopies of jellyfish. At birth, these jellyfish are stacked like plates on top of each other. Who would have thought they would become so lovely?
The jellyfish in diverse colonies, quite unpleasant to the touch, innocently display their terrifying tentacles. The sun glittering on the water continues to hypnotize; this garden, perhaps too calm, induces sleep. The table is set for the starfish: he need only extend his stomach and engulf his prey. The racket startles everyone. The sun hides. In the garden, it rains. Each dresses in its own style. Algae on the tip of the nose is undoubtedly striking.
Hyas and Stenorhynchus, marine crustaceans. Like all crustaceans, they are armwrestling enthusiasts. The stenorhynchus is slender; with long legs and large claws. At the center of the breathing plume, the mouth. Sometimes one finds these crustaceans near a worm: the great fan worm. This worm lives in a tube and can extrude or retract its respiratory plume in a spiral. We are going to see the branchiae of the plume increasingly enlarged. Surprise The Periophthalmus perches in the undergrowth and draws its eyes back into its skull, snorting. There are other fish, equally rare, with eyes at the ends of extensible stalks, which is as practical as it is attractive.
But most fish simply roll their eyeballs around in their sockets, often independently of each other. Without eyelids, the round eyes of fish express constant surprise. Yet this is justified when encountering the Hippocampus, the seahorse, with its slow, formal appearance, incapable of flight.
But fleeing would ill-suit creatures of such dignity. What can be said about these vertical animals with their distinguished sadness, these old repressed gargoyles? And with such manners! Not only does the female possess the male, burying the nipple of her cloaca into the pouch of his stomach, but she also transfers her two hundred eggs to him. The male will then fertilize the eggs and carry them for weeks, while a genuine placenta is formed so that the blood of the father can nourish the embryos.
A painful delivery follows, rich in suffering and agonizing labor. If only it ended here.
Andy Masaki Bellows
But there is still that damned secretion of gases from the pouch, which continues even after the last of the offspring has been expelled. It is the only aquatic vertebrate that swims standing up. This upright posture gives it a pompous air. Its pouting lips. The male fertilizes the eggs he receives from the female. A headlong flight, so common to other animals, would hardly be permitted given its dignified stance. A thread, so thin that its width and depth can be ignored, has only length.
It has only one dimension. Let us imagine creatures infinitely flat living in a plane of two dimensions. They will not be able to imagine that anything exists outside their universe. Similarly, if there were a fourth dimension, any being living in it could manifest itself to us in a mysterious way. These are only assumptions to encourage thinking. Green Hell The moist heat crushes man. He alone sees nothing of the trembling shadows, hears neither the crunching mandibles of insects tearing each other apart fearlessly nor the intertwining of flowers.
The night encompasses rampant odors, the dramas of appeasement—hunger, desire. Death is in full swing. Jumping spiders as big as plates, with shining eyes like those of cats, massacre birds. The serpent slithers around a vine, taking on its form, then shoots past the throat of a puma, and engulfs a buffalo toad, muffling its cry. This is the hour of the Vampire, of all the murderous legends. And as bad reputations are generally made in the corner of the woods, it is at the edge of the Chaco forest that the Vampire makes his.
Joy accompanies bloody binges, his silent grimaces sound the call of nature. On crippled legs, he lurches, his paunch good and swollen. Where murder reigns supreme, we must be grateful to him for simply stealing a bit of blood here and there from a sleeping herbivore or man, and not taking its life. Disease transmitted by liquids secreted from the thighs of insects as they swell with blood. It moves like a cripple, limping on its hindlegs and leaning on the bent thumbs of its forelegs.
Its lower harelip and the mass of quivering flesh overhanging its snout emphasize its hideous grimace. The saliva contains an anti-coagulating substance which facilitates the blood flow. In one single meal it can empty a guinea pig of its blood. The vampire bite also transmits an endemic disease, the illness of Caderas, a sort of malaria that ravages herds in South America. Still Waters A rustling of wind, faint reflections, reeds swaying, the charm of the pond. Tranquil and secure. Nothing stirs in the water. But in every corner of algae, behind every root of horsetail, or beneath a blanket of dead leaves, watchers lie in ambush.
To eat or to be eaten—this is the outcome of every encounter, at night as well as day. Death without anger, without passion, without reflection, without delay, without morality; necessary death: it fulfills a need. A paralyzed motionlessness precedes the abrupt and precise move that seizes the prey. Shelling, chewing, smashing, sucking, grinding, swallowing—there are a thousand different threats.
Here a pump, there a spike, elsewhere an articulated mask. The catch is held fast by the curvature of the body, by the ravaging claws, by the fangs; it is impaled, dissected. Yet some of these carnivores, once adult, become little more than bucolic vegetarians. And it cannot be said that the bigger eats the smaller because the larva of the water beetle, scarcely born, will hurl itself onto anything, regardless of size, as long as its fangs can penetrate.
Then immediately through these fangs, which are connected to the digestive tube, there is a constant pumping and sucking, a back-and-forth motion injecting gastric juice and swallowing the pulp of dissolved tissue—predigested foods are easily absorbed. In any case, the water beetle larvae are insatiable. In all these murders, one is overwhelmed by the supplicating gestures of the victims; one can imagine their cries.
However, this is just a question of custom: in the town of SaintAmour, children watch pigs being scalded.
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In a pond or simple puddle, freshwater harbors intense life. This life can be summed up into two clearly distinct outcomes: to eat, or to be eaten. We will study here, several forms of alimentary destruction. On the outskirts of Paris, in vacant lots, are the playgrounds of poor children, scattered with the odd debris of discarded wealth. Disassorted delights for the curio seeker, for poets and passing lovers, at the edge of the domain of trucks and trains.
At the Port of Vanves there is also the Vaugirard slaughterhouse. The municipal slaughterhouse, despite its emblem of the bull, specializes in the slaughter of horses. The tools of the trade vary according to the animal: the reed; the poleax; and the Behr gun, which stuns the animal by percussion. After the slaughter, the horse is hoisted by cable and drained of its blood. It is then lowered to be skinned. Compressed air pumped under the skin facilitates the process. The feet, detached, will be taken away by the horse-slaughterer. The hooves will be used for fertilizer and the bones will serve, among other things, in the fabrication of souvenirs of Paris.
The delicate task of flaying with a razor-sharp lancet is not without its dangers. He had to have his right leg amputated. On the outskirts of Paris, the Canal of Ourcq and the wheels of fortune. At the Port of Pantin, the Villette market. The slaughterhouse is linked to the market by a bridge over the canal, which is used for the transport of livestock.
The butchers and scalders work amid the deafening noise of pneumatic winches and while surrounded by the gray vapors of the blood of the beasts. Marcel Griselle, former boxing champion. Pressing completes the draining of blood, which is collected in receptacles. The overflow streams down the gutter.
Disemboweling is done while the winch is being hoisted. The scraps of fat will be collected by nuns. Henri Fournel, a man who can split an ox in the time it takes the clock to strike the twelve chimes of noon. The white meat of veal requires the complete drainage of blood by decapitation. The dead animal is still animated by involuntary reflexes, manifestations of a purely vegetative state. The heads are branded for numbering and identification. This is not a chapel built to glorify John the Baptist, patron saint of butchers, or the memory of his gentle lamb. It is the auction house of the slaughterhouses.
The sheep are led by the traitor among them, the one who knows the way and whose life will be spared. The others follow like men. They bleat the way hostages sing, knowing it is to no avail. During the skinning, the sheep is punched; a cyst can form on the wrist of a worker after several years of this hard work. Without anger, without hate, and with the simple good humor of killers who whistle or sing while slitting throats. For one must eat each day and feed others at the cost of a very difficult and often dangerous occupation.
The day comes to a close. In the stalls, the troubled sheep will fall asleep with the silence. My six wives are dead And my castle is bleak Your two daughters are beautiful And there innocence is futile. A Walk in the Forest The sea urchin is a delicacy. Gourmets soak up everything by dipping a piece of bread in the open shell; discerning palates choose the reproductive glands: iodized hazelnut. But the most amazing part is the shell. At first glance, one sees only an impenetrable forest but then begins to distinguish the moving spines.
And with greater scrutiny, it is revealed that these do not aid locomotion at all but that this role is assured by a system of highly specialized hydraulic feet: passing through hundreds of holes in the shell are little flexible stems, each ending in a sucker. Under the shell, these hollow stems swell into a bulb, and all the bulbs are connected to one another by channels of water.
When the bulbs contract, they force water into the elastic stems that then extend forward, transforming the forest into a flower. If the suckers encounter an obstacle, they stick to it. The stems then shorten, sending water back into the bulbs, and the sea urchin is pulled toward the fastened suckers. Magnification allows us to venture deeper into the forest. Around the spines, which now look like Doric columns, we discover another smaller forest of shrubs. These are the pedicellariae: minuscule organs belonging to the sea urchin and formed of the same substance as the spines.
Their hard stems end with three jaws, which muscles open and close perpetually. Some pedicellariae have long, thin jaws with an openwork design. Others, powerful and continuous, evoke the heads of serpents. Others still, the cleaning pedicellariae, resemble clovers; they clean the surface of the sea urchin and the fluting of the spines. Last, some pedicellariae possess jaws equipped with poisonous glands and teeth beveled like hypodermic needles. And over the entire sea urchin extends a carpet of vibratory cilia, except on the ends of its spines.
Perhaps, these have been worn down. Five teeth allow it to dig, crush, loosen, and absorb all sorts of debris stripped from the rock. A sea urchin that has been injected with gelatin and whose shell has been removed will show its internal organs. Each stem is connected beneath the shell to a muscular bulb filled with water. All these bulbs lie against one another like the pages of a book.
Amidst a forest of spines stir delicate crystalline forms. They are called pedicels. Woman Who Embraces Tightly Draped in her skin of changing colors, the amorous lady has closed her eyes. She has the heavy lids of a seductress, but the gaze within is always alert. Because this common mollusk has eyelids, she can vary her expression, unlike fish with the permanent surprise of their always-round eyes. She sees far, aims well, and thwap! Eight prehensile whips lash out, as if flung by the most deft, most dexterous cowboy. How can anything escape this repeated embrace? Each sucker, and there are hundreds of them, performs its function perfectly, even if the tentacle is severed.
The crab, bound and breathless, receives a deadly kiss from the mouth of the octopus; with her terrifying, parrotlike beak, she can crack open the hardest shell. Meanwhile, the mechanics of her breathing continue undisturbed. Water is drawn in through the gills and expelled through a central tube, the siphon, which points forward. To swim, the octopus need only contract this siphon forcefully, propelling herself backward, and, because she is unable to see where she is going, may enter the gaping mouth of a conger eel.
Quite a mouthful. The octopus is malleable. The moods of the octopus are revealed in her changing hues: she will turn red, black, purple, or yellow, depending on the area of pigment she contracts. Experiments have shown that she remembers things, recognizes things, and can adapt to society. She is offended by foul-smelling eggs and will throw them back at you violently, turning white with anger. The male must insert the end of his special arm into the respiratory opening of the female.
There is no recommended position to achieve this. With the help of a crease forming a cloak around its body, it can also swim—its shell serving as ballast.
The reproductive organs are situated to the right of the neck. The plasmodium of the Myxomycetes is so sweet; the eyeless Prorhynchus has the dull color of the born-blind, and its proboscis stuffed with zoochlorellae solicits the oxygen of the Frontoniella antypyretica; he carries his pharynx in a rosette, a locomotive requirement, horned, stupid, and not at all calcareous. The turbellarians have seized it, penetrate by breaking and entering, pierce and suck; a horrible cry echoes and joins the lapping of luminous interferences; the cercaria of distome emerge from their stagnal hymens, cast a glance, and terror encysts them.
The rolling in an S, a bit of zinc, the temporarily gelatinous sophistry pffft! The spermatogenesis only takes place in the male, says this old marc valve. Oh, there now! Does the complete understanding of a natural phenomenon strip away its miraculous qualities? It is certainly a risk. But it should at least maintain all of its poetry, for poetry subverts reason and is never dulled by repetition.
Besides, a few gaps in our knowledge will always allow for a joyous confusion of the mysterious, the unknown, and the miraculous. We all seek, more or less consciously, to increase our knowledge of the unknown—if only out of a lazy desire to turn something that once required thought into something that no longer does. We then use this knowledge to predict, from a safe distance, phenomena in a variety of fields and to produce more numerous and more fruitful hypotheses that we hope will finally explain Nature once and for all. It is the preservation of our species that is at stake and incites this eternal curiosity.
Indeed, without our constant updating, the most stable or most perpetuated revelations are quickly erased, leaving us few clues about our evolution. This great passion of Man drives him irresistibly toward the origin of all things. Unfortunately, this search has led certain minds away from scientific inquiry to more or less voluntary self-delusion, though they may be motivated by deep conviction and a yearning for truth, rather than a desire for glory.
But it is only when we recognize this need to understand do we realize the power the word creation has over us.
Let us not confuse figments of the mind with actual experience. Our narrow minds need the comfort of carefully crafted logic and clear delineations. It will be a disorderly one, but then again so are our subjects. We then notice that certain foods, though very similar, seem to be more preferable or more suitable. The same goes for habitat. These subtle variations in food and environment have the power to play endless tricks on us.
We see animals that go from being oviparous to viviparous in response to mild temperature or abundant food. We see others that go from endlessly producing females—their successive generations fitting together like Russian dolls—to suddenly producing a male when faced with hunger or cold.
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We see males that are ridiculously dwarfish, whereas in a similar species they are magnificently built, vibrantly colored, and highly ornamented. There are females that continue to lay eggs throughout their lives next to legions of asexuals. Then there are cases of hermaphrodites that appear in some species at the onset of a new generation. Some just divide themselves in two, lengthwise or widthwise, others simply explode. There are eggs that are suspended in water but only develop if they are dehydrated by the sun or frozen. For some, fertilization occurs anonymously, water currents acting as the intermediary.
For others, fertilization involves selection and combat. Sometimes it is the female who attends to her eggs; at other times, this service is performed by the male, who may even carry the eggs. Every evening, Mr. Alytes, the obstetrician toad, comes to soak his packet of eggs. In other instances, relatives entrust their offspring to the kindness of nature or simply drop them off with neighbors.
Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painleve () - IMDb
The subsequent development of the little ones offers just as many marvels. We see offspring who slowly substitute themselves for their parents by resorbing them; elsewhere, we see parents decompose in their children. We witness organs of propulsion becoming jaws, an eye passing from one side to the other or fusing to the one next to it; in some, all the organs disappear.
While some young begin with identical forms, they grow into adults who look nothing like each other. So wildly different are the developmental stages in such a species that if one does not closely monitor their transformations, one. Indeed, a dully colored, carnivorous larva might grow into a dazzling colored vegetarian who, when fully grown, no longer has a mouth and fasts until its death.
The different ways animals protect themselves varies wildly too: they employ shape, surface, changes in color, stillness, curling up, shells, tubes, burying, disguise, flight, nails, beaks, pincers, claws, hooks, teeth, jaws, mandibles, spines, tentacles, odor, electricity, ink jets, etc. And when they attack, we see more variations still. The very mobile carnivores each have their own way of lying in wait: a slow, creeping approach; hesitation; encirclement; or absolute motionlessness. In slow-moving animals, the stakeout is accompanied by the play of tactile organs that operate as a kind of warning.
Though a stakeout always ends with an abrupt capture, the nature of the capture varies. The serpent crushes its prey in its coils before serving itself. The cat tears its victim apart and swallows feathers and hide. The duck seizes a snail in its bill and swallows it whole, dilating its esophagus in the process. The anteater, when it is tired, sticks its viscous tongue in a nearby anthill and withdraws it when it is covered with ants who had unwittingly become stuck to it, having gathered around it to discuss its strange and sudden appearance.
The toad snatches its prey dolefully while closing its eyes. The salamander tilts its head to the side as it contemplates a little worm crawling by, then slowly approaches it, coming within a millimeter, and finally lets loose in a skillful spasm. If a stickleback fish were to arrive at this moment, it might steal the worm but only swallow it halfway, appearing to be playing with it as it swims away. With eyes like two pivoting turrets in perpetual motion, the chameleon lances its prey with a certainty and a swiftness that belies its appearance.
The dragonfly larva deploys its articulated mask and in a flash ensnares its prey between two hooks. The water scorpion skewers its victim onto a pointed tip that serves as its mouth, then breathes it in with the aid of a piston. The larva of the dytiscid feeds itself in a similar way, though quite differently from the way the weasel. The conger eel is like a pneumatic mail tube and can easily swallow a fellow conger, an octopus, and great quantities of small fish.
The octopus casually dispatches a tentacle toward a slow-moving crustacean while it simultaneously shatters a few mollusk shells with its parrotlike beak. The starfish extends its stomach and envelops the most stubborn bodies, while the anemone uses its multiple, sticky little arms to slip all sorts of goodies into a single, wide opening that serves as both an entrance and exit.
The angler fish, a vast sack of stuffing, awaits a tug on its fishing line, then closes its enormous mouth over creatures that are quite incapable of satisfying this digestion factory. The well-armed crustaceans are very fond of jujitsu with the twisting of claws—pulled off pincers rejuvenate, an antenna soon substitutes for an eye.
A glowworm can inject a fluid into a mollusk ten times its size that will cause it to decompose in its shell and reduce it to an absorbable gruel. But there are less violent habits: after skillful, slow-motion flight maneuvers, the carp louse lands on the backs of fish and fixes itself there in order to feed on the mucous secreted by their skin. It is certainly a risk. But it should at least maintain all of its poetry, for poetry subverts reason and is never dulled by repetition.
Besides, a few gaps in our knowledge will always allow for a joyous confusion of the mysterious, the unknown, the miraculous. In the end, he exhorts the few documentarians left to rise above the mediocre:. You who do not practice the defeatist motto: "It's better than nothing"; you who have a strong enough cinematic eye to impose it on subjects you feel something for; you who will not agree to make a film about sugar production for the simple reason your grandfather was diabetic; you who scorn saccharine sentimentality and refuse to disfigure a work with it.
It is you who hold the fate of the documentary—battered and bruised by a thousand blows from all sides—in your hands.