"Probably, besides the cinematic language suggested by Griffith and Eisenstein, the world cinema hasn't
discovered anything revolutionary new until (Paradjanov's) The Color of Pomegranates..."
One of the greatest masters of cinema, Sergei Parajanov, created two masterpieces in a
row, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964) and
The Color of Pomegranates (1969), had
such legendary fans as Fellini, Godard, and Tarkovsky, and was imprisoned three times. His artworks, and particularly his
Mona Lisa collages, put him in the company of Picasso and Warhol. At least four countries - Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and
Russia - claim him as their own, and major directors from Hollywood to Iran, fashion designers from New York to Brazil, and
superstar musicians like Madonna have all created work influenced by this genius.
Sergei Iosifovich Paradjanov (Sarkis Hovsepi Parajanian, or Parajaniantz) was an Armenian who was born
on the 9th of January 1924, and raised in Tbilisi (Tiflis), Republic of Georgia, Soviet Union (USSR),
by his Armenian parents, the merchant Iosif (Hovsep) Parajanian and Siranush Bejanov (Bejanian). Paradjanov studied violin,
voice and ballet, and then, in 1951, graduated from the world's oldest film school, the Institute of Cinema (V.G.I.K)
in Moscow, where he was taught by the likes of Dovzhenko (Ukraine's foremost filmmaker).
In Dovzhenko's homeland, Parajanov created his
first masterpiece Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964), which brought him world wide fame.
He was blacklisted by the Soviet authorities for his support of the Ukrainian dissidents and nationalists and all
his projects in the Ukraine were jeopardized, notably (the unfinished) Kiev Frescos (1966).
Paradjanov next came to his ancestral homeland Armenia to direct Sayat Nova and
met the noted recent V.G.I.K. graduate Mikhail Vartanov (the classmate of Aleksandr Antipenko who had lensed
Kiev Frescoes). Impressed with Vartanov's comments about the screenplay and style of
Sayat Nova, Parajanov became close friends with him and considered his candidacy
as the film's cinematographer. Armenfilm Studio assigned Vartanov to save several failing projects
at its documentary department, however, and Parajanov brought from Ukraine the great cinematographer Suren Shakhbazian,
also a close friend (who had lensed his first feature Andriesh). Even though
Sayat Nova (1969), better known as The Color of Pomegranates,
turned out to be Parajanov's second masterpiece in a row, it was
recut by the Soviet censors, but not merely because it was misunderstood.
Paradjanov paid a heavy price for his outspoken criticism of Soviet cinema and the authorities: Soviet movie studios
rejected all his projects after The Color of Pomegranates, and he was
arrested in 1973 and sentenced to 5 years in a Ukrainian prison in 1974.
A waive of international protests by the likes of Truffaut, Bunuel, Pasolini and Antonioni followed -- in Europe and the
United States, but also in the Soviet
Union itself, where it was actually dangerous. Notably, his close friend Mikhail Vartanov, who had been blacklisted
for portraying Paradjanov in the documentary The Color of Armenian Land (1969),
was fired from Armenia's only film studio (four months after Parajanov's imprisonment) because he petitioned
the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to release Parajanov, as evidenced by the recently declassified documents obtained
by Parajanov's wife Svetlana. Finally, at the initiative of poet Mayakovsky's lover Lilya Brik, the French communist poet
Louis Aragon, who was married to Brik's sister Elsa Triolet, personally petitioned the Soviet leader Brezhnev
who released Parajanov in 1977.
Paradjanov returned to his hometown of Tbilisi, Replublic of Georgia, but remained unemployed. During this time
he created a large number of artworks, notably his extraordinary Mona Lisa collages. At last, 15 years after
Color of Pomegranates, thanks to the efforts of the Georgian intelligentsia, Parajanov was permitted to
direct. He created his Georgian masterpiece
The Legend of Suram Fortress (1984), but had to share the credit with the renowned
actor Dodo Abashidze (who starred in but didn't direct the picture). Not coincidentally, in 1983, Paradjanov's friend
Vartanov was also assigned his first film as a director in nearly 10 years (which was one of the reasons he couldn't accept
Parajanov's renewed offer to be his cinematographer).
Gorbachev's reforms allowed Parajanov to leave the Iron
Curtain for the first time and he attended the prestigious Rotterdam International Film Festival where
The Legend of Suram Fortress won the Best Innovative Film Award.
The next feature Paradjanov directed was his Azeri masterpiece
Ashik Kerib (1988), which he dedicated to his friend Andrei Tarkovsky (who died in 1986, and
whose Ivan's Childhood
had inspired Paradjanov to break free of the sanctioned Socialist Realism style in 1964).
Ashik Kerib was also selected by prestigious festivals, Venice (Labiennale) and New York,
and won the European Film Academy Award.
In 1989 Parajanov began the shooting of The Confession, an autobiographical picture,
but it remained unfinished due to his hospitalization. That same year, Parajanov assigned his
sceenplay of The Treasures at Mount Ararat to an Eastern-European producer and instructed him to hire
Mikhail Vartanov to direct the film, but, after preparatory work, the producer failed to meet his contractual obligations, and
that project also remained unfinished. Vartanov independently produced
Parajanov: The Last Spring which included the original camera negative of
The Confession. Shortly after receiving the
honorary titles of the People's Artist of Ukraine and the People's Artist of Armenia, Paradjanov passed away on July 20, 1990. "Cinema
lost one of its magicians," wrote Fellini, Tonino Guerra, Moravia, Rosi, Masina, Mastroianni and Bertollucci, who, with the rest of the world, mourned Parajanov's untimely death at 66.
SERGEI PARAJANOV FILMOGRAPHY
ASHIK KERIB 1988
ARABESQUES ON THE PIROSMANI THEME 1986
LEGEND OF SURAM FORTRESS 1984
CHILDREN TO KOMITAS 1968
Parajanov made this documentary for UNICEF but it has been lost.
SAYAT NOVA or THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES 1968
HAKOP HOVNATANIAN 1967
KIEV FRESCOES 1966
SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS 1964
FLOWER ON THE STONE 1962
UKRAINIAN RHAPSODY 1961
GOLDEN HANDS 1960
NATALIA UZHVY 1959
THE FIRST LAD 1958
Parajanov's student film (aka "Moldavskaya Skazka") was lost.
THE CONFESSION (1990)
unfinished autobiographical film - original negative survives in
PARAJANOV: THE LAST SPRING
Born on January 9, in Tbilisi (Tiflis), Georgia, Soviet Union (USSR).
Studies at the Russian language school 42 in Tbilisi.
Enters the Institute of Railway Transport, but soon leaves for the Conservatory of Music.
Enters the world's oldest film school, the Institute of Cinema (V.G.I.K), in Moscow
(the workshop of professor Igor Savchenko, later led by Dovzhenko) in 1945.
Spends seven months in a Tbilisi jail in 1948 on homosexuality charges. Marries a Tatar girl, Nigyar Kerimova, in 1951,
but she is murdered a year later by her relatives for marrying outside her religion. Parajanov graduates
from VGIK with a (short) thesis film A Moldavian Tale (lost).
Remakes A Moldavian Tale as a feature Andriesh (co-directed with Yakov Bazelyan). Marries
a Ukrainian girl, Svetlana Sherbatiuk in 1955, who gives birth to their son Suren in 1958. Parajanov shoots
several documentaries and features, and divorces in 1962.
Directs his first masterpiece Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, followed by Kiev Frescoes,
which gets shut down.
Directs his second masterpieces Sayat Nova (The Color of Pomegranates) (after the documentary
(Hokop Hovnatanian) in 1967 in Armenia. Becomes friends with Mikhail Vartanov who is blacklisted for
portraying him in The Color of Armenian Land. Parajanov criticizes the state of Soviet cinema
and the authorities during a speech in Minsk, Belarus (recorded by KGB). Arrested in Ukraine in 1973.
Sentenced to 5 years in a Ukrainian prison on numerous trumped-up charges.
Mikhail Vartanov is fired for petitioning the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to release Parajanov.
Louis Aragon petitions and Leonid Brezhnev frees Parajanov in December 1977.
Parajanov returns to Tbilisi. Arrested there in 1982 on charges of bribery, released 10 months later.
Directs The Legend of Surami Fortress and wins at Rotterdam.
Opens the first major exhibition of his artworks in Tbilisi in 1985.
Directs the documentary on Pirosmani (1986).
Directs Ashik Kerib which wins the European Film Academy Award.
Begins the shooting of The Confession but it remains unfinished due to his hospitalization.
Mikhail Vartanov starts the independently produced Parajanov: The Last Spring.
Parajanov passes away on July 20, 1990, and is laid to
rest at Armenia's Pantheon, where Komitas, Aram Khachaturian and William Saroyan also rest in peace.
Parajanov Museum opens in Armenia's capital in 1991. Mikhail Vartanov's Parajanov: The Last Spring (1992), in which
survives the original camera negative of the unfinished Confession, receives the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts Award. The website Parajanov.com is thought up in 1995 (concieved in 1999 and born in 2001). Parajanov statues are
unvailed at Ukraine's Dovzhenko Film Studios in 1997 and at his hometown of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, in 2004.
Parajanov and Vartanov families come together to establish the Parajanov-Vartanov Institute in Hollywood.
The first joint Parajanov and Vartanov retrospective and exhibition is organized by the prestigious Busan International
Film Festival in South Korea. Parajanov-Vartanov Institute works with The Film Foundation/World Cinema Project on the
restoration of The Color of Pomegranates, which premieres at the world's preeminent Festival de Cannes.
Martin Scorsese accepts the 2014 Parajanov-Vartanov Institute Award on behalf of his Film Foundation for the restoration of the