I last saw this when SBS showed it back in 1990 (Jesus, THOSE were the days! SBS would never have the balls now), and in a way I’m kind of glad it’s taken me this long to see it again, after seeing two more of Paradjanov’s features and some of his shorts and also having a better idea of the general course of his life and career; I can see it in context rather than just thinking “wow, this is really fucking weird” as I did back then… That said, I’ll not pretend that I necessarily understand it better at 38 than I did at not quite 16, though it was certainly interesting to learn in the accompanying documentary that the film was actually viewed as something of an international prestige project in Russia as well as Armenia, and that Paradjanov viewed himself as a sort of successor to the multilingual poet Sayat Nova whose life was the film’s nominal basis, he was trying to create a film form like the verse forms of the bards like Sayadian… As such it’s stylised to a degree that makes Ivan the Terrible look like a textbook of naturalism; if Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was a huge departure from his earlier work, this is an even bigger departure from that, exchanging that film’s dynamism for stasis and tableaux vivants and the amazing flattened visual space of Kiev Frescos. Making the film seems to have been difficult (the studio was unhappy that one of his choices to play the Armenian male poet was both Georgian and female, but that seems to have been a comparatively minor point), and its fate upon completion was even more so (I watched the Second Sight DVD which has the shorter Russian cut, but I have a Youtube copy of the Armenian print used by Kino—though the DVD is of noticeably better quality); in whatever form, though, it is in many ways the Platonic ideal of the Difficult European Art Film. Irrespective of whether or not I get all the symbolism at work, though, I still look at this thing and I sense something extraordinary about it even if I find it hard to articulate exactly what.
The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)