Isabella Rossellini doesn't know what we can learn from the sex lives of sea creatures, and she isn't particularly worried about it.
"People are so human-centric," she laughs in a recent interview about Green Porno 2, the second in a series of films she writes, directs and stars in this month on the Sundance Channel.
The short films, which feature Rossellini portraying a limpet, whale, starfish, and other creatures, are longer on dreamlike sounds and images than lessons on how to live. They summon comparisons to David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World — films in which Rossellini shone as an actress.
In Green Porno 2 (the first Green Porno focused on the insect world), Rossellini's rich Italian accent and strange, delightful costumes imbue even a limpet's life with poignancy. The accounts are scientifically accurate, and filled with sexual universals. ("Eggs are precious," she explains in one film. "Sperm are cheap.")
Rossellini herself is the product of two highly advanced organisms: legendary actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini. But her lineage doesn't begin to explain a life story that includes conservation, journalism, modeling, circus ringmaster duties, a marriage to Martin Scorsese, and turns on Alias and 30 Rock (a show she would return to "in a flash," she says).
For all of the commonalities Green Porno 2 finds between sea creatures and human beings, it also highlights the thing that separates us from every other living thing on Earth: the ability to create gorgeous, inscrutable art. That is, if you're so human-centric as to care.