Saturday, January 25, 2020

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates. Sofiko Chiaureli.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates. Le sang d'un poète. Il meurt mais sa poésie est immortelle.

Նռան գույնը / Цвет граната / Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / Brotseulis kvaviloba / Tsvet granata / Granaattiomenan väri / Granatäpplets färg.
    SU 1968. PC: Armenfilm. D: Sergei Parajanov. SC: Sergei Parajanov – inspired by and incorporating poems by Sayat Nova. DP: Suren Shahbazyan – 35 mm – colour – 1,37:1. PD: Stepan Andranikyan. AD: Sergei Parajanov. Set dec: Mikael Arakelyan. Cost: Elene Akhvlediani, I. Karalyan, Zh. Sarabyan. Makeup: V. Asatryan, P. Aschyan. VFX: H. Hovhannisyan, L. Karamyan. M: Tigran Mansuryan. Choreography: Sergei Parajanov. ED: Sergei Parajanov, Marfa Ponomarenko. S: Yuri Sayadyan.
   C: Sofiko Chiaureli (Poet as a Youth / Poet's Love / Poet's Muse / Mime / Angel of Resurrection), Melkon Alekyan (Poet as a child), Vilen Galustyan (Poet in the cloister), Gogi Gegechkori (Poet as an old man), Spartak Bagashvili (Poet's father), Medea Japaridze (Poet's mother), Hovhannes Minasyan (Prince), Onik Minasyan (Prince).
    Tournage: 17 Aug 1967 – 22 July 1968 Studios Armenfilm (Yerevan). The baths: shot at the studio in Kiev. – Loc: Armenia: Haghpat Monastery, Sanahin Monastery, Saint John Church (Ardvi), Akhtala Monastery. – Georgia: Alaverdi Monastery, David Gareja monastery complex, Dzveli Shuamta. – Azerbaijan: Old City of Baku, Nardaran Fortress.
    Russian version (1970) edited by: Sergei Yutkevich.
    Digital restoration: 2014 (Film Foundation / Cineteca di Bologna).
    Yerevan premiere: October 1969.
    Moscow premiere: 29 Aug 1970.
    Festival premiere: 25 Nov 1977 Venice Biennale.
    French premiere: 27 Jan 1982.
    Digital restoration premiere: May 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
    No theatrical release in Finland – telecast 11 Feb 2015, 1 March 2017 Yle Teema.
    Film control VET 94355 (film archive screening SEA 1987) – K12 – Russian version 72 min – Armenian version 79 min
    Armenia Fest, Savoy Theatre, Helsinki, 25–26 Jan 2020.
    DCP with English subtitles of the 2014 digital restoration viewed at Savoy, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2020. 

Wikipédia: La vie de Sayat-Nova, poète arménien du XVIIIe siècle, en huit chapitres:
    I : L'enfance du poète.
    II : La jeunesse du poète.
    III : Le poète à la cour du prince / Prière avant la chasse.
    IV : Le poète se retire au monastère / Le sacrifice / La mort du katholikos.
    V : Le songe du poète / Le poète retourne à son enfance et pleure la mort de ses parents.
    VI : La vieillesse du poète / Il quitte le monastère.
    VII : Rencontre avec l'Ange de la Résurrection/Le poète enterre son amour.
    VIII : La mort du poète / Il meurt mais sa poésie est immortelle.

AA: Բարև՛ Ձեզ! Barev dzhez!

I was happy to introduce at the Armenia Fest Sergei Parajanov's Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates, a contender for the most beautiful film of all times. It is exceptional that a motion picture manages to pay tribute to a great poet and find the proper wavelength with him. It helps if the film-maker is a great poet herself/himself such as Forough Farrokhzad, Jean Cocteau or Pier Paolo Pasolini. Sergei Parajanov belongs to these happy few.

Nran guyne is inspired by the life of Sayat-Nova, the great Armenian poet who was born in Tbilisi, lived in the 18th century and wrote poetry in four languages: Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaijani and Persian. Equally multi-cultural was Parajanov, also born in Tbilisi whose vibrant Armenian community was also the home of the composer Aram Khachaturian and Rouben Mamoulian the great Broadway and Hollywood director. Parajanov's first languages were Georgian and Armenian, and he went to school in Russian. He directed films in five languages: besides the aforementioned also in Ukrainian and Azerbaijani. "The brotherhood of nations" was a key tenet of the official Soviet ideology, and this particular tenet was cordially embraced by Parajanov in the spirit of old Tbilisi where many cultures had co-existed for centuries without being assimilated or mixed.

Parajanov's career as an assistant director and director started during the Stalin era, and he directed several reportedly conventional films until in 1962 he saw the feature film debut of a much younger colleague: Ivan's Childhood by Andrei Tarkovsky. This film electrified Parajanov who experienced a rebirth as a film artist.

In Ukraine he directed Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors based on a story by Mikhail Kotsyubinsky: a flight of cinematic imagination so extraordinary that one started to speak about Soviet psychedelia. In any event it was a foundation work of the poetic school of 1960s Soviet cinema, following Tarkovsky. The cinematographer was Yuri Ilyenko who was strongly inspired by the Mikhail Kalatozov / Sergei Urusevsky school of the moving, roving, flying, unhinged camera. There was a very big collision with Parajanov who was about to discover his true calling as a poet of the tableau vivant. But they managed to collaborate, and Ilyenko was launched on a career of his own as a director, as one of the masters of Ukrainian cinema together with Leonid Osyka who directed The Stone Cross, both inspired by Parajanov.

The film studios of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia were also impressed, and Parajanov got to direct in all of them, and his next film was the miraculous Nran guyne, a poetic film produced on a big budget. The result was wonderful, but the Thaw period was coming to an end in the Soviet Union, and dozens of remarkable films were being shelved, starting with the long version of Marlen Khutsiev's I Am Twenty (The Gate of Ilyich), soon including Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublyov and masterpieces by Kira Muratova, Otar Iosseliani, Yuri Ilyenko, Aleksandr Askoldov, Larisa Shepitko, Elem Klimov and Aleksei German.

Nran guyne was not banned. It was given a limited release in its Armenian and Russian versions, and screenings were possible on demand. But in contrast to Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors it was not widely released nor sent to international film festivals.

Homosexual acts were illegal in Russia, and the bisexual Parajanov did not live in a closet. There is even a subtle "queer look" in his movies. Sexual identity is fluid also in Nran guyne. There is nothing provocative or intentionally transgressive in this. Instead, Parajanov seems to reach back to something atavistic and primordial. In the prologue of Nran guyne we even hear quotes from the Genesis.

In the 1970s Parajanov landed to the prison archipelago of Siberia in a series of hard labour camps, nominally for indecency but probably the real reason was his openly expressed contempt towards the Soviet system. Andrei Tarkovsky was the first to defend his friend, and there was an international protest movement of prominent artists to support Parajanov. Finally he was released, probably thanks to the intervention of Louis Aragon, Elsa Triolet and John Updike.

In the 1980s Tbilisi became the hotbed of glasnost. It was there that Tengiz Abuladze directed Repentance, the first glasnost film, a direct confrontation with the Stalin legacy. In Tbilisi Parajanov was also able to make his next film, The Legend of Suram Fortress, premiering 16 years after Nran guyne.

Parajanov's art is a unique combination of the archaic and the modern. His cinema was inspired by the naive art of the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani and by old Iranian miniatures which Parajanov loved to examine in the museums of Tbilisi. His cinema has an affinity with masters of the early cinema starting with the magic visions of Georges Méliès, the tableaux vivants tradition and the symbolism of Maurice Tourneur and Yevgeni Bauer.

But he was also ahead of his time. In the contemporary cinema of the most recent decades there are masters who have revived early cinema approaches. Geographically the nearest one can be found in Sweden: Roy Andersson has directed commercials and feature films with the tableau approach. True, in contrast to Parajanov, the landscapes are drab, the persons are glum and the colours have no glow. Flamboyant colours can be found in the commercials, music videos and feature films of the Indian, Bengalese director Tarsem. When Tarsem visited Helsinki we showed him Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by his favourite director Parajanov, a film which he seemed not to have seen before.

Parajanov was influenced by Iranian culture, and Parajanov's films have been popular in Iran. Last summer at the Midnight Sun Film Festival among the guests was a famous artist couple of Iranian film-makers: Mohsen Makhmalbaf whose Gabbeh, about making Persian carpets is clearly indebted to Nran guyne, and his wife Marzieh Meshkini whose The Day I Became a Woman is full of imagery with Parajanovian affinities.

Nran guyne is a mysterious film. No matter how often you see it it surprises you. It transcends boundaries – boundaries of cultures, boundaries of history. It is a timeless work of art.

(Based on my introduction to the screenings).


I was also happy to catch samples of the wonderful concerts of The Naghash Ensemble and the Vardan Hovanissian Trio.

Savoy used to be a cinema in the 1960s of my childhood, known at the time as Cinerama Savoy. I saw 70 mm screenings there of films such as Ice Station Zebra. I also saw 2001 A Space Odyssey there during its first run. And Savoy was also one of the cinemas rented by the Finnish Film Archive. There I saw for the first time Satan Never Sleeps, very impressive in scope on the giant screen.

Now Savoy Theatre is a vibrant site for concerts, festivals and cultural events. It is occasionally also a cinema, most prominently during film festivals. I was amazed to learn that Savoy Theatre, seating 750, is the biggest cinema in Finland, bigger than Tennispalatsi ISENSE or Bio Rex.

Because I started to frequent Savoy in the 1960s, seeing Nran guyne there was a special memory journey and a magical mystery tour. In the Internet Movie Database there is a well selected suite of 87 photos from Nran guyne. Because it is a tableau vivant film, it is also rewarding to study in photographs.

I have loved Nran guyne since I first saw it in 1983 in a brilliant print in West Berlin. The film was never theatrically released in Finland, and I programmed its first Finnish screenings at the Finnish Film Archive at Cinema Orion in 1987 and wrote the program note. The film is both opaque and accessible, inviting and estranged.

I now saw for the first time the 2014 digital restoration. Well done.


I used the opportunity to study two great books:
Érik Bullot : Sayat Nova de Serguei Paradjanov : la face et le profil. Crisnée : Yellow Now, 2007. 110 p. : ill. ; 17 cm. ISBN: 2-87340-212-1 ; 9782873402129.
James Steffen : The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov. Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. 306 s. : ill. ISBN: 978-0-299-29654-4.


Saatuaan valmiiksi Menneitten sukupolvien varjot Sergei Paradzhanov joutui viideksi vuodeksi mustalle listalle Dovzhenkon studioilla Kievissä. Vuonna 1969 hän sai työtarjouksen Armenfilmin studioilta Jerevanista, missä hän valmisti Nran guynen, elokuvan Armenian kansallisrunoilijasta. Tuo tyylitelty teos ei eri pyri historialliseen tarkkuuteen. Se on spirituaalinen elämäkerta vieläkin sisäistyneemmällä tavalla kuin sille ilmeisesti vaikutteita antanut Andrei Rublev. Päähenkilö Aratiun Sajadian (1712–1795) tunnetaan nimellä Sajat Nova – "Laulun kuningas".

Ohjaajan ote on tässä teoksessa entistäänkin jäntevöitynyt. Tosin on mahdotonta sanoa, missä määrin teoksen ladattuun elliptisyyteen vaikuttaa Sergei Jutkevitshin uudelleenleikkaus.

Teos kertoo unenomaisella voimalla runoilijan kauneusaistin syntymästä ja kehityksestä. Aineisto on konkreettista: vanha kirjansidonta, mattojen valmistus ja värjäys, alastoman ihmisruumiin houkutus, viinin valmistus, teurastus, kansanjuhlat, orgiat. Rakastavalla silmällä Paradzhanov ottaa esiin menneisyyden aarteita: värjäysastioita, kaiverruksia, maalauksia.

Hän luo oman tyylitellyn kertomatapansa. Se on koreografinen, ikonien emblemaattisia asentoja stans-sinomaisesti muokkaava. Paradzhanovin tyyliä luonnehtivat maskit, pantomiimit, litistetty perspektiivi, pelkistetyt näköviivat ja äänen radikaali irrottaminen kuvasta.

Runoilijan ja muusan suhteeseen liittyy teoksen sisäinen, salamyhkäinen kehitystarina. Sofiko Tshiau-reli esittää viittä runoilijan elämään liittyvää hahmoa; Sajat Novaa itseään esittää kolme eri näyttelijää. Kysymys on toisen todellisuuden etsinnästä: tunkeutumisesta fantasian, mysteerin ja halun maailmaan. Halki iloisten hovien ja luostarien käy runoilijan etsintä, kunnes vastassa on vain tyhjyys ja kuolema. Askeettisen runoilijan ja sensuaalisen muusan suhde on sama kuin Menneitten sukupolvien varjoissa. Nran guynessa siihen liittyy voimakas biseksuaalinen vire.

Musikaalin mestariteosten tavoin Nran guyne on kuvan juhlaa. Vain turhaa kehyskertomusta ei ole. Väri, liike ja muodot kasvavat täydelliseksi synteesiksi. Tämä on absoluuttista elokuvaa.

Aina ensimmäisistä kuvistaan lähtien (rypäleiden murskaaminen, kuivalla maalla sätkivät kalat, kastu-neiden kirjojen kuivaaminen) teos kohoaa loitsunomaiseen voimaan, joka ei hetkeksikään herpaannu. Nran guyne on maailman kauneimpia elokuvia.

Teos on kirotuista elokuvista kuuluisimpia. Alkuperäistä versiota ei esitetty. Sergei Jutkevitsh leikkasi vuonna 1972 siitä venäläisen version, joka ei ole tekijän autorisoima. Tuo versio tuli kansainväliseen levitykseen vuonna 1982. Tekijä itse oli 15 vuoden ajan vaikeuksissa, pitkään vankilassakin, syinä eri lähteiden mukaan homoseksuaalisuus, valuuttakaupat ja toisinajattelevien tukeminen.

– Antti Alanen 1987

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