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Sea Ballerinas (1960)

Les danseuses de mer (original title)
Examines the respiratory, reproductive, and metabolic systems of starfish.


Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon (co-director)


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Two kinds of starfish, the brittle and the feather. The brittle star moves its arms alone, without the aid of suckers. Underneath is a single opening. Stalks move food close to the mouth and move waste away. We see vents, used in reproduction and breathing. We watch the hatched young expelled into the water. The camera shows us brittle stars' intricate patters. We observe feather stars in clusters, like ferns. One turns over slowly; arms have branches with stalks for breathing and gathering microscopic food. Reproductive organs are inside branches. We see eggs develop at 1,400 nature's speed. Larvae emerge, 0.1 mm long. They grow. A feather star takes a walk. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

starfish | submarine world | See All (2) »


Documentary | Short

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SWAN LAKE Was Nothing Like This
5 September 2018 | by bobliptonSee all my reviews

Painlevé returns his cameras to the sea thirty years after his first documentary, to take a look at star fish in this typical professorial short on these underseas creatures.

His photography is just as brilliant as ever, and in this one he and his co-director,Geneviève Hamon use the usual array of microphotography, high-speed cameras and now tinted lenses to bring their subjects into clearer focus. Despite their weird appearances and counter-intuitive life cycles (the feather stars seem to be unusual in that they go from a fixed, sessile phase of life to a mobile one), the film makers make evident the grace and beauty of these animals.

This is one of the few movies in which Painlevé's sense of humorous not just black, but determinedly mawkish, as if he is trying to be funny in a shocking manner, but fails. Well, not all jokes work.

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Official Sites:

Light Cone official page





Release Date:

21 April 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sea Ballerinas See more »

Filming Locations:

Roscoff, Finistère, France

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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