III. Maya Deren + Jean Painlevé

Introduction by Evann Siebens,
a Vancouver-based artist who makes media with movement

Maya Deren (1917-1961), “the mother of underground cinema,” was the leading avant-garde filmmaker in the U.S. during the WWII era. Her films, including the surrealist masterpiece Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), are magical, lyrical, trance-like pieces of startling beauty, and helped inspired a renaissance in American avant-garde filmmaking.

The wondrous science films of French director and biologist Jean Painlevé (1902-1989) meet at the unlikely intersection of nature documentary and avant-garde art, and were admired by the Paris surrealists (many of whom Painlevé had befriended) for their dream-like poetry, sly wit, and interest in the strange psychosexual realms of existence.

— By Deren —

Meshes of the Afternoon • Deren’s most celebrated film, a haunting, paranoid take on love and loneliness, was the finest example of dream cinema since the Buñuel-Dalí collaboration Un Chien Andalou. USA 1943/Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid. 14 min. 16mm

At Land • Deren’s poetic exploration of identity, destiny, and chess manipulates time, space, and subjectivity to create a “pure American trance film” (P. Adams Sitney). USA 1944/Maya Deren. 15 min. 16mm

Ritual in Transfigured Time • Deren, also a choreographer and dancer, combines dance and film grammar in a formally daring, psycho-dramatic study of ritual. USA 1946/Maya Deren. 15 min. 16mm

The Private Life of a Cat • Deren and husband Hammid’s documentary, a remarkably intimate look at feline reproduction and parenting, is the “cat video” par excellence. USA 1944/Alexander Hammid, Maya Deren. 22 min. Blu-ray Disc. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives, New York

— By Painlevé —

The Seahorse (L’hippocampe) • Painlevé’s popular film pairs imagery of hermaphroditic seahorses with modernist music by Darius Milhaud for a remarkable underwater adventure in science and surrealism. France 1934/ Jean Painlevé. 15 min. DVD

The Vampire (Le vampire) • Set to a jazz score by Duke Ellington, Painlevé’s observational short about South American vampire bats is a science-film Nosferatu with an anti-Nazi subtext. France 1945/ Jean Painlevé. 9 min. DVD

The Love Life of the Octopus (Les amours de la pieuvre) • A musique concrète score by Pierre Henri enlivens this slithery, oddly sensual depiction of the octopus’s otherworldly mating rituals and reproductive practices. France 1965/Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon. 13 min. DVD

Total running time: approx. 105 min.