Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Zoom Lens 

Science Is Fiction

Wednesday, Jul 12 2000
Science Is Fiction
The plangent wah-wah of vintage Duke Ellington accompanies the gyrations of seahorses in the opening images of Jean Painlevé's The Vampire (1945), giving viewers a sense of nature-appreciative well-being in the mold of so many other "real life" films. That superior distance is undermined, however, when a crippled, harelipped vampire bat makes its appearance -- dragging its body about like Lon Chaney Sr. in some uncensored Tod Browning nightmare -- and completely collapses as the bat begins feeding on a much larger, unaccountably immobile guinea pig. The image wouldn't be so horrific if we didn't relate to bat and pig as conscious creatures like ourselves -- one of the points of the excellent program of short films screening at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley this Tuesday, inaugurating a series titled "Science Is Fiction." Our anthropomorphism is mocked in Bert Haanstra's and Arne Sucksdorff's Zoo (1962), with a hidden camera observing visitors to the Amsterdam Zoo, and destroyed by Georges Franju's The Blood of the Beasts (1949), as whistling, coffee-swilling butchers matter-of-factly slaughter a horse, a bull, and lambs whose limbs keep wiggling after decapitation. Franju, whose later work (e.g., Eyes Without a Face) is presaged by this early documentary, introduces his film and breaks into it periodically with charming street-scene footage of urban-rural interface, all the better to set off the bloodletting from which our society springs. The program also includes Painlevé's The Seahorse (1934), a Claymation Blue Beard (1938) he worked on, and an 1898 Separation of the Siamese Twins -- all in all a good starting point for rethinking animal-human relations -- from the animals' perspective.

"Science Is Fiction" screens Tuesday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley. Admission is $7; call (510) 642-1124 or go to

About The Author

Gregg Rickman


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • The Soiled Dove
    Vau de Vire presents The Soiled Dove, a Barbary Coast themed dinner-theater complete with the Emperor himself stumbling around in a drunken stupor. Photographs by Beth LaBerge.
  • 4th Annual Mr. Marina Competition
    Mike Thomas was announced Mr. Marina 2015 on Wednesday, March 18th. Chubbies, spray tans and unitards hit the stage for the 4th Annual Mr. Marina competition raising $195k. Highlights included a great rendition of Sia's Chandelier and a marina inspired "Fancy" performance. Photographs by Calibree Photography.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular