Directed by: Sergei Parajanov (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors)
Starring: Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Alekyan, Vilen Galstyan, Giorgi Gegechkori
After being impressed with Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965), I was actually looking forward to his even more highly-regarded The Color of Pomegranates (1968) — a film that both baffled and angered Soviet censors. I have to say, I understand how they felt. If I was still in high school, I might have classified the film as “I didn’t understand it, so it must be art.” From a perspective long past high school, I can only say I didn’t understand it and I didn’t like it, but I don’t feel like I can say it’s bad. I admit I know nothing about the Armenian poet Sayat Nova from whose life and works the film is drawn and that may be a factor. (However, from what I can tell from the film itself, I doubt I’d respond to his works.) To say that this isn’t a traditional biopic is an understatement. The (thankfully) short film (78 minutes) is a series of tableaux illustrating — more or less — his poems and life. The film often resembles the old trick films of Georges Melies with characters popping in and out of the scenes observed by a nailed-down camera. A great many people appear to consider this beautiful and brimming with meaning. I found the images occasionally striking, and sometimes bizarre, but I never connected with them in any meaningful way. You may feel differently.
In Brief: Sergei Parajanov’s highly-acclaimed arty and poetic biography of an Armenian troubadour is so far removed from the norms of narrative film that it’s beyond questions of good and bad. Its often striking and evocative tableaux either resonate with the viewer or they don’t. I can’t say they work for me.