The trouble with scientists monopolizing the investigation of the natural world is that they don't always know what questions to ask. Science Is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painleve
explores the work of a man interested in mathematics, art, medicine, and biology, who showed early cinema audiences the alien beauty of the sea and its creatures. Son of a French prime minister, Painleve studied natural science when it was a luxury, but he allied himself with the Surrealists and anarchists who caused such trouble in the 1920s and thereafter. Capable of grossing out Luis Buñuel but also inspiring a pan-European seahorse frenzy through his art, Painleve comes under critical analysis in this volume, which includes his own writings, stills and quotes from his films, notes from contemporaries including Leo Sauvage, and modern appreciations and listings of his work.
The pictures come close to capturing the essence of his magic, but his words are more evocative of his artistic sensibility, one that rejects humanization of nonhuman subjects and tells stories regardless of their potentially shocking or subversive themes. Providing the world with alternative means of examining art, science, and nature, Jean Painleve deserves much wider recognition from everyone he has influenced; Science is Fiction is a mighty leap in the right direction. --Rob Lightner