by benjamintripp

okay shameless self-promotion meets respectful obituary: maybe everyone knows this but one of ALAIN RESNAIS’s earliest film efforts was a tongue-in-cheek industrial film “The Song Of Styrene”, with narration by RAYMOND QUENEAU: i did this TRANSLATION below of RQ’s narration in like 2009 I think during my COLLEGE DAYS:


Oh time, suspend your bowl, oh plastic form

Where do you come from? Who are you? What is the story

Behind your unique features? What are you made of?

Perhaps a review of your ancestry is enough.

We begin the adventure in reverse! Observe the mold

A mysterious prototype…it makes untold

Varieties of objects, like bowls or what-have-you.

The mold is the important part of a huge

Press that injects the paste to shape the piece,

With its remarkable advantage being

That it creates a thing in one fell scoop.

The mold is costly and must be put to good use.

Vacuum shaping is another way

Of fashioning objects with a hint or two of grace.

Long before that however, the warmed

Material needs to lie gently on a board.

To enter the nozzle, it required a piston

And a special kind of heating system

In which the lively, quick and turbulent

Polystyrene hurried without relent.

The granules swarm across the vibrant sieve

Bounding with marvelous colors, ever since

Becoming a wide variety of straws

Of every imaginable tint, shade and nuance

Set to speed along through narrow tubes

Linked together by a single screw.

And so from this gelatinous mass, with time,

The rainbow-esque beads and pearls emerge to find

The pigments they uniformly mingle with

Before they tumble and rotate to dry and stiffen.

There it is born, the famous polystyrene,

A compound derived from simpler forms of styrene.

Polymerization describes the act

Of all the molecules combining in that

Dark elementary electric machine

Specially built by an engineering team.

The molecules begin to cling together

And pearls begin to form, as if for a necklace.

The styrene itself began as a colorless liquid.

Somewhat explosive, it smells stronger than you think.

Closer inspection reveals the substance to be

An obscure and most peculiar entity.

Styrene gets produced most often en masse

From ethylbenzene overheating in vats.

It used to also come from benzoin,

A tree of Indonesian origin.

And so from tube to tube, onwards we go

Through a desert of channels where the substance flows

Towards the raw beginning, the primal abstract

Circulating without end on its track,

Cleaning, distilling, and re-distilling for miles.

It’s more than just an exercise in style!

So long as the temperature is high and holds

Ethylbenzene will combust on its own.

But exactly how is it derived? It’s no sweat—

In fact, it’s a vaporous ethylene mess

With liquid benzene. Petrol and coal perform

The task of helping the gases combust and transform.

We continue along these hallowed paths to discover

How one exists in harmony with the other.

Does petroleum come from masses of fish?

Coal is equally mysterious.

Perhaps petroleum comes from tiny planktons?

These questions have controversial origins.

Petroleum and coal were all up in smoke

Before the chemist arrived with passion and hope

To render gases solid, and reach the goal

Of harnessing Nature’s awesome powers in the home.

And yet there are other materials waiting still

For sciences’ effort to help them transform, until…

Eureka! New and improved by compound mutation:

A product to purchase at your nearby location.