Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Sayat Nova
Soviet Union/Armenia, 1969. Armenfilm. Screenplay by Sergei Parajanov, based on the poems of Sayat Nova. Cinematography by Suren Shakhbazyan. Music by Tigran Mansuryan. Production Design by Stepan Andranikyan. Costume Design by Elene Akhvlediani, I. Karalyan, Zh. Sarabyan. Film Editing by Sergei Parajanov, M. Ponomarenko, Sergei Yutkevich.
Sergei Parajanov’s trip through the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova is not a biography, but rather a series of tableaux from birth to death using images as much culled from the imagery of his work as they are from the details of his life. As is always the case with Parajanov, it’s a film that in description sounds maddening and impossibly arch but I would be surprised if anyone was not wholly hypnotized by the beauty of the images on display (and, hopefully, the soundtrack depending on the version you get to see). By the time this one came out, Soviet authorities had had enough of the director’s indulgent and voluptuous style, films that go nowhere near the socialist realism expected of an industry so useful as propaganda, not to mention emphasizing localized cultural tradition instead of propping up the value of the unified empire; as a result it was his last work before a long stint in the gulag that prevented him making another film for years. He has thankfully been rediscovered since political change has made it possible to see his work, sadly long after his passing in 1990, but a movie like this that has lost none of its vibrancy or strength is a great testament to his power as an artist. It’s a must-see regardless of whether or not you’re into this type of thing.