MOMI Explores “Science On Screen”


“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”

With films exploring everything from seahorses to sleepwalking, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image is screening films from the past century as part of a series that explores the depiction of science on celluloid.

“Science on Screen” will run through May 21 at the museum, located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria, and includes two upcoming screenings—a March retrospective of French filmmaker Jean Painleve’s aquatic films and a May showing of the 1920s masterpiece “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” The series kicked off in late January with a presentation of “Teknolust,” Lynn Hershman’s 2002 picture starring Tilda Swinton as a biogeneticist who replicates herself into clones that need to seduce men to survive.

Screenings in the series, which is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, include discussions with filmmakers and scientists.

“We are thrilled to receive national recognition for our commitment to science and film,” said Sonia Epstein, executive editor of “Sloan Science & Film,” which organized MOMI’s series. “With this grant, we have been able to develop an amazing program that explores the intersection of science and film and brings top research scientists to the museum community.”

On March 26, the museum will screen a selection of short films by Painleve—but also Isabella and Roberto Rossellini—at 4:30 p.m. on sea creatures. It will be followed by a conversation with Dr. Mande Holford, a Hunter College associate professor of chemistry whose research focuses on how the venom of marine snails can be used in drug development for pain and cancer treatment.

Painleve’s otherworldly films frequently capture the spectacle of marine biology through the use of one of cinema’s first underwater cameras. Films by the director that will screen during the March event include 1933’s “The Sea Horse,” 1960’s “How Some Jellyfish Are Born,” 1967’s “The Love Life of the Octopus” and 1972’s “ACERA, or The Witches’ Dance.”

The 70-minute event will also include several entries from actress Isabella Rossellini’s stylized series “Green Porno,” which explores how the starfish, shrimp, squid and anchovy reproduce. The museum will also show “Fantasia Sottomarina” (1940), the rare first film by legendary director Roberto Rossellini, who is Isabella’s father.

That film concerns two fish in love that are threatened by an octopus.

On May 21, the museum will present “Somnambulism, When Dreams Come True,” which includes a screening of Robert Wiene’s landmark 1920 German Expressionist silent film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” which concerns itself with a hypnotist who brings a man (Conrad Veidt) under his control and turns him into a sleepwalker who commits murders.

The screening will be accompanied by a performance by High Water, a New York-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who plays saxophone and electric piano. And New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Dr. Carl Bazil, a sleep-disorder professional certified in sleep medicine and specializing in insomnia, will lead the discussion after the movie. Artist Javier Tellez, a Venezuelan video installation artist whose “Caligari and the Sleepwalker” was made in collaboration with patients in a German psychiatric institution, will also take part in the discussion.

Tickets for the screenings are $15 for adults, ages 18 years and above; $11 for seniors and students; and $7 for youths, ages 3 to 17. The screenings are free for museum members. Ticket purchase includes same-day admission to MOMI’s galleries.

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