Meet Sergei Parajanov, the Filmmaker Persecuted & Imprisoned by the Soviets, and Championed by Tarkovsky, Fellini, Godard, Buñuel, and Others

“Who­ev­er tries to imi­tate me is lost,” said the Sovi­et film­mak­er Sergei Para­janov. Not so long ago, who­ev­er tried to imi­tate him would also be in deep trou­ble. Per­se­cut­ed by the Sovi­et author­i­ties for the “sub­ver­sive” nature of both his work and his lifestyle, he spent four years of the 1970s in a Siber­ian hard-labor camp. Noth­ing could speak more high­ly to his artistry than the fact that, even before his sen­tenc­ing, Andrei Tarkovsky wrote a let­ter in his defense. “Artis­ti­cal­ly, there are few peo­ple in the entire world who could replace Para­janov,” argued the direc­tor of Mir­ror and Stalk­er. “He is guilty – guilty of his soli­tude. We are guilty of not think­ing of him dai­ly and of fail­ing to dis­cov­er the sig­nif­i­cance of a mas­ter.”

Alas, Tarkovsky’s protes­ta­tions fell on deaf ears, as did those of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truf­faut, Luis Buñuel, Fed­eri­co Felli­ni, Michelan­ge­lo Anto­nioni, and oth­er cre­ators besides. Para­janov had earned their respect with two fea­tures, 1965’s Shad­ows of For­got­ten Ances­tors and 1969’s The Col­or of Pome­gran­ates, clips of which you can see here.

The pow­ers that be actu­al­ly looked kind­ly on the for­mer, prais­ing its poet­ic adap­ta­tion of a clas­sic nov­el by Ukran­ian writer Mykhai­lo Kot­si­ubyn­sky. But the lat­ter, a life of the 18th-cen­tu­ry Armen­ian singer Say­at-Nova (the Geor­gia-born direc­tor was him­self of Armen­ian her­itage), seems to have gone too far in its break from the state-approved style of Social­ist real­ism in which Para­janov once worked.

“Even when he was released, Para­janov was ‘silenced,’ as he said,” writes Messy Nessy. “He tried to get back on his movie mak­ing, but strug­gled for anoth­er ten years until the Sovi­et Union col­lapsed in the 1980s. When he died in 1990 at only 66, he left his final work unfin­ished, leav­ing the world to won­der what oth­er visions of his were lost to time.” As the world has since slow­ly redis­cov­ered the visions Para­janov did real­ize, his influ­ence has here and there made itself felt. “I believe you have to be born a direc­tor,” he says in the inter­view clip above. “A direc­tor can’t be trained, not even in film school.” Direct­ing, to his mind, “is basi­cal­ly the truth, trans­formed into images: sor­row, hope, love, beau­ty.” And as all those respect­ed auteurs under­stood, no oth­er film­mak­er has ever seen the truth quite like he did.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch 70 Movies in HD from Famed Russ­ian Stu­dio Mos­film: Clas­sic Films, Beloved Come­dies, Tarkovsky, Kuro­sawa & More

Watch Earth, a Land­mark of Sovi­et Cin­e­ma (1930)

The Film Posters of the Russ­ian Avant-Garde

A Crash Course on Sovi­et Mon­tage, the Russ­ian Approach to Film­mak­ing That Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Cin­e­ma

Every­thing You Need to Know About Mod­ern Russ­ian Art in 25 Min­utes: A Visu­al Intro­duc­tion to Futur­ism, Social­ist Real­ism & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Suren says:

    These two fea­tures are fan­tas­tic. He’s an artis­tic giant of his time. Sure­ly, if he was Russ­ian he would­n’t be as silenced but deal­ing with minori­ties (those in Carpathi­an moun­tains of Ukraine and the exper­i­men­tal takes on Arme­ni­ans — both with high­ly reli­gious sym­bol­ism) was a no-go for the light freeze of that Brezh­ne­vian Sovi­et admin­is­tra­tion. The sovi­et thaw had end­ed and Para­janov was still try­ing to melt the restric­tions away.

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