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The Films of Sergei Paradjanov

One of the most colorful and revered figures in world cinema, Armenian Sergei Paradjanov (1924-1990) burst upon the international film world in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, one of the most dazzling movies ever made. A Romeo-and-Juliet tale set in a remote Carpathian village, it is a passionate, richly inventive work marked by breathtaking camera work and stunning color imagery. A multi-faceted artist–painter, musician, collagist, short-story writer, and filmmaker– Paradjanov spent more than seven years in prison (1974–1978 and 1982–1985) on a variety of trumped up charges, ranging from homosexuality and spreading venereal diseases to fraud, black marketeering, and "incitement to suicide."

After Shadows, Paradjanov managed to make only three more full-length films, each astonishing in its own right and each in a completely different style. Our retrospective is presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Works by the Master: The Art of Serguei Parajanov" (November 7–December 17) at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, 65 Main Street, Watertown, Massachusetts, which features the first display in America of 56 artworks on loan from the Paradjanov Museum in Yerevan.

November 26 (Friday) 7 pm
November 28 (Sunday) 8 pm

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Teni Zabytykh Predkov)

Directed By Sergei Paradjanov
USSR 1964, color, 35mm, 97 min.
HFA Archival Print
With Ivan Nikolaichuk, Larisa Kadochnikova
Ukranian with English subtitles

When Shadows first appeared in the West, critics proclaimed its director the heir to Eisenstein and Dovzhenko. Now certified as a classic of world cinema, the film won more than a dozen prizes at international festivals, but was condemned by Soviet authorities as a work of "formalism" and "Ukranian nationalism." Paradjanov transformed an ancient Carpathian folk legend about two lovers, whose families are embroiled in a blood-feud, into a dizzying, rhapsodic pageant of sex, death, madness, myth, and ritual. Filming amongst the Gutsul tribe in the Carpathian mountains, Paradjanov and his cinematographer, Yuri Ilyenko, conceived Shadows as a "dramaturgy of color" to summon up a world of pagan myth, blood, lust, and spiritual devastation.

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December 1 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm


Directed by Sergei Paradajanov and Yakov Bazelian
USSR 1954, color, 35mm, 63 min.
With Kostja Russu, Nikolai Schaschik
Ukranian with English subtitles

A major foreshadowing of Paradjanov’s later work, the visually prodigious Andriesh is an entertaining tale about a young shepherd who is given a magic shawm (a flutelike instrument) to help him conquer his foes. With its flying sheep, evil wizards, and storm demons—all captured in the gloriously artifical palette of fifties Soviet color stock—Andriesh has the kind of eye-popping, whirlwind weirdness of Paradjanov’s last films, Suram Fortress and Ashik Kerib.

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January 7 (Sunday) 2 pm and 7 pm

The Color of Pomengranates (Sayat Nova)

Directed by Sergei Paradjanov
USSR 1969 color, 35mm, 73 min.
HFA archival print
With Sofiko Chiaureli, M. Alexanian
Armenian with English subtitles

"The greatest Soviet film since the war" (David Robinson), this poetic chronicle of the life of an 18th-century Armenian poet is widely considered to be Paradjanov’s masterpiece. Condemned by Soviet authorities as "hermetic and obscure," shelved for four years, re-edited and circulated only in bootleg prints until the 1980s, Pomegranates consists of a set of exquisite tableaux, derived from such sources as silent Soviet cinema, Quattrocento painting, and Byzantine icons. A stunning mixture of the medieval and the modernist and of pagan and Christian themes, Pomegranates is "an extraordinarily beautiful film ... a truly sublime and heart-breaking film" (J. Hoberman, Village Voice).

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November 27 (Saturday) 7 pm
November 30 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm

The Legend of Suram Fortress

Directed by Sergei Paradjanov and Dodo Abashidze
Legenda Suramskoi Kreposti
USSR 1984 color, 35mm, 87 min.
With Levan Outchanechvili, Zourab Kipchidze, Veneriko Andjaparidze
Georgian with English translation on soundtrack

Suram Fortress triumphantly marked Paradjanov’s return to filmmaking aftermany years of imprisonment. Based on a folk legend about a fortress which cannot be completed until an innocent young man sacrifices himself by being entombed in its walls, the film incorporates homoerotic reverie into its nationalistic salute to Georgian warriors. Crammed into every fruit-strewn, fauvist-colored composition is an extravagance of Paradjanovian objets d’art and gewgaws: hookahs, lutes, and zithers; brocade, damask, and elaborately patterened rugs; a menagerie of peacocks, goats, and camels; and enough pomegranates to stain the heavens.

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November 26 (Friday) 9 pm
November 28 (Sunday) 6:30 pm

Paradjanov: A Requiem

Directed by Ron Holloway
Germany/US 1994 Color, 35mm, 57 min.
English and Russian with English Subtitles

Paradjanov: A Requiem charts the evolution of the controversial director's artistry, which culminated in the creation of his brilliant, hallucinatory film fantasies of poetry and folk legends. Rare, extensive interviews with the outspoken director, along with film clips, drawings, photographs, and fragments of uncompleted films coalesce to make this a revealing account of an unforgettable artist.

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December 3 (Friday) 7 pm
December 4 (Saturday) 4 pm


Directed by Don Askarian
USSR 1998 color, 16mm on Beta SP, 60 min.
American Premiere!
Russian with English voice-over

Drawing on archival footage, fragments of interviews, and scenes from his films, this newly constructed portrait of Sergei Paradjanov was composed by the highly accomplished Armenian director Don Askarian (Komitas, Avetik). According to the director's synopsis: "The year is 1989. The place is the film festival in Rotterdam. Farewell at the Hilton Hotel. And Paradjanov says,‘Help me make Confession.’ I answer, ‘As a child of two fathers, the film will be born a bastard.’"

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December 5 (Sunday) 4 pm
Free Program!

Rare Paradjanov

Through the kindness of Zaven Sargsyan, director of the Parajanov Museum in Yerevan, we are pleased to present a program of some of the rarest of all Paradjanov films, presented here on video. The program features footage from Paradjanov’s unrealized film The Kiev Frescos (1966, 15 min), Hakop Hovnatanian (1967, 8 min), and Arabesques on a Theme of Pirosmani (1986, 20 min). Also included are two documentary works: Sergei Parajanov (1998, 50 min) by Fotos Lambrinos and A Night in the Parajanov Museum (1998, 23 min) by Roman Balayan.

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December 7 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Asik Kerib

Directed by Sergei Paradjanov
USSR 1988, color, 35mm, 83 min.
With Yuri Goyan, Veronika Metonidze, Levan Natroshvili, Sofiko Chiaureli
Georgian with English translation on soundtrack

The last feature Paradjanov completed before his death transforms a famous Lermontov story into a wild Arabian Nights–like tale set in the Caucasus, replete with spinning tigers, flying carpets, albino pomegranates, and machine gun–toting courtesans. The Turkish minstrel Ashik Kerib, tossed out by his beloved’s father and given a thousand days to make his fortune, sets off across Armenia fending off fools, philistines, and fascists with the magic of his art. Ashik Kerib is "masterfully composed ... wildly beautiful... told with affection, humor, and high style"(New York Times).

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700