The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov (Wisconsin Film Studies)
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Sergei Parajanov (1924-90) flouted the rules of both filmmaking and society in the Soviet Union and paid a heavy personal price. An ethnic Armenian in the multicultural atmosphere of Tbilisi, Georgia, he was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema. Parajanov succeeded in creating a small but marvelous body of work whose style embraces such diverse influences as folk art, medieval miniature painting, early cinema, Russian and European art films, surrealism, and Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cultural motifs. The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov is the first English-language book on the director's films and the most comprehensive study of his work. James Steffen provides a detailed overview of Parajanov's artistic career: his identity as an Armenian in Georgia and its impact on his aesthetics; his early films in Ukraine; his international breakthrough in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; his challenging 1969 masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates, which was reedited against his wishes; his unrealized projects in the 1970s; and his eventual return to international prominence in the mid-to-late 1980s with The Legend of the Surami Fortress and Ashik-Kerib. Steffen also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the Soviet film censorship process and tells the dramatic story of Parajanov's conflicts with the authorities, culminating in his 1973-77 arrest and imprisonment on charges related to homosexuality. Ultimately, the figure of Parajanov offers a fascinating case study in the complicated dynamics of power, nationality, politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and culture in the republics of the former Soviet Union.
various times the direct subjugation—of the Persian, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Russian Empires. As a consequence, the peoples of Transcaucasia developed a complex mixture of Eastern and Western cultures that contributed to a sense of rich cultural diversity in the region and to periodic eruptions of ethnic and religious conflict. Both diversity and conflict ultimately shaped Parajanov’s own artistic identity and the trajectory of his filmmaking career. Baedeker’s 1914 travel guide to Russia
Ukraine attended. November 6, 2004: Memorial statue by sculptor Vazha Mekaberidze unveiled in Tbilisi. Th e C in ema o f S ergei Pa ra j a n o v Int roduct io n Int roduct io n F ew film directors ever manage to create a single image that is truly unlike anything you have seen before. In that respect, Sergei Parajanov’s films seem almost reckless in their generosity. We watch a tree falling on the man who has felled it—from the point of view of the tree. An androgynous robed figure pours
Metekhi, with the modern equestrian statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali standing in the foreground. These juxtapositions demonstrate a playful interplay between past and present, a key element of the city’s identity and one that shaped Parajanov as an artist. As a study for the film he was about to shoot, it also reveals the painstaking care and far- ranging thought behind his new aesthetic. Production The production of The Color of Pomegranates proved remarkably complicated, due in no small part to
Crimean Tatars’ historical fate.27 Thus The Slumbering Palace proved yet another example of the complications Parajanov encountered when attempting to work in his preferred mode of poetic cinema using historical or quasi- ethnographic subjects. Intermezzo No projects were forthcoming at the Dovzhenko Film Studio, and less than a year later Parajanov’s frustration began to show more openly. On July 14, 1970, he submitted a written application to Sviatoslav Ivanov, the chair of Goskino of Ukraine,
unconventional style, films like Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and The Color of Pomegranates reflected the fondness of the Soviet cultural apparatus for promoting the cultural heritage of the many peoples contained within the Soviet Union, and they required the allocation of considerable resources by the state. The Color of Pomegranates in particular did not run into trouble because it was about the great Armenian national poet Sayat- Nova. Rather, as archival documents reveal, officials both in