The Films of Sergei Paradjanov


Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964)     The Color of Pomegranates (1968)

The Legend of the Suram Fortress (1984)     Ashik Kerib (1988)


Titles

 


 

Sergei Paradjanov was born in Tblisi, Georgia (former Soviet Union) in 1924. In 1964 he was able to direct 'Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors'; a boldly conceived and astonishingly photographed blend of enchanting mythology, hypnotic religious iconography, and pagan magic introducing the world to a new idiosyncratic cinema talent.

 

In 1968 he created one of many masterpieces; "Sayat Nova" which was promptly banned by Soviet authorities. It was renamed (and re-edited without his approval) and entitled "The Color of Pomegranates". For religious sympathies and lack of conformity to the strict socialist realism of the former Soviet union Paradjanov was arrested in December of 1973 and sentenced to five years imprisonment - residing in various hard-labor camps.

An important group of world-famous filmmakers, artists and activists (including notables such as Federico Fellini, Tonino Guerra, Francesco Rosi, Poet Louis Aragon, Mikhail Vartanov, Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni and Bernardo Bertolucci) persistently protested Paradjanov was eventually released after 4 years. His activity remained monitored and he was limited by the Soviet authorities but 15 years after "Sayat Nova" he created "The Legend of the Suram Fortress"; a folk tale and adapted from the novella by Daniel Chongadze. Once again the cinema world was peering inside viewing vividly poetic and poignant imagery.

 

In 1986 Parajanov made yet another multi-award winning film, Ashug-Karibi (1988), based on a tale by Mikhail Lermontov, and he dedicated the film to his friend Andrei Tarkovsky. His stay in prison had crushed his health, and he passed away in July of 1990 of cancer, leaving the world a rich and unforgettable blend of unique and meaningful cinema but his legendary films live on and his picture adorns a postage stamp in Armenia. 

Posters etc.

Theatrical Releases: Various from 1964 - 1988

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Kino Video - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Kino Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: 1:31:33 + 1:18:00 + 1:22:45 + 1:13:33 (respectively)
Bitrate:

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Bitrate:

The Color of Pomegranates

Bitrate:

The Legend of Suram Fortress

Bitrate:

Ashik Kerib

Audio Ukrainian (original mono), Ukrainian (5.1), Georgian Voiceovers, Russian Voiceovers - see specifics below
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None (Not on all - see specifics below)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Kino

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1 

Edition Details:

• Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors Special Features - Documentary: Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Paradjanov (2003, 40 min.) - Featurette: Songs of the Ukraine (1985, 8 min.) - Paradjanov Photo Album - Stills Gallery - Cast & Crew Filmographies
•  Color of Pomegranates Special Features - PARADJANOV: A REQUIEM, Hakob Hovnatanian
•  The Legend of the Suram Fortress Special Features - Interview with Svetlana Scherbatyuk, the wife of Sergei Paradjanov (26 min.) - Documentary: Actress Veriko Andzhaparidze (9 min.) - Featurette: The Architecture of Ancient Georgia (6 min.) - Photo Album - Cast and Crew Filmographies
• Ashik Kerib Special Features - Documentary: Sergei Paradjonov (24 min.) - Documentary: Mikhail Lermontov (12 min.) - Featurette: The Minstrel's Song (5 min.) - Biography of Mikhail Lermontov - Cast and Crew Filmographies - Photo Album - Trailers 

DVD Release Date: February 5th, 2008
4 standard Keep Cases inside a cardboard box
Chapters:
various

 

Comments:

The four main features of this boxset are housed in individual keep cases - see images above and below - and are all sold separately as well. They are in the NTSC standard, coded for Region 1 and have optional English subtitles. All four discs are dual-layered but unfortunately suffer from interlaced transfers. I will discuss the specifics of each DVD below.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: I'd never seen this film before and it is the only one of the four not previously offered by Kino. I'm not positive but believe, like two of the others (Suram and Ashik), that this is a port of the RusCiCo (Russian Cinema Council) DVD - which, by the way, I do not own. Considering many factors - it looks very good - rich colors and thick contrast that appears to be somewhat heavy at times. Detail is at the higher end and the only disturbance is the visible combing inherent from the interlacing. It has removable subtitles and is on a dual-layered disc. Audio options include the original Ukrainian mono, a (fake) 5.1 bump and a Russian Voiceover (5.1). Supplements are strong with a 40 minute documentary from 2003 entitled Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Paradjanov. There is an 8-minute featurette: Songs of the Ukraine (1985) and a Paradjanov Photo Album - stills gallery - and static screen cast & crew filmographies.

The Color of Pomegranates: Unfortunately, this disc has not improved and retains the same VOB files from 2000. The image is pictureboxed with burned-in subtitles. It is very weak; hazy with faded colors and plenty of damage marks. Kino has a lot of nerve charging $30 for this alone. It is the eye-sore of the set. The best thing you can say about the disc is the inclusion of the hour-long Paradjanov: A Requiem as well as the short Hakob Hovnatanian.   

The Legend of the Suram Fortress: This was originally offered by Kino in April 2001 sharing the disc with Ashik Kerib. We have included a duplicated frame from the original Kino - comparing it to the 'Special Edition' below. You can see it is dramatically improved - especially in the areas of detail, sharpness, color and there is more information in the frame. It also appears to be a RusCiCo port and has unusual macro-blocking issues.  Other than that it looks very strong with only the nagging interlacing as the fatal flaw. It may be the best looking of all 4 DVDs in the package. It has optional English, Spanish or French subtitles. Audio offers an original mono or a 5.1 Russian Voiceover. NOTE: Due to a fire in the Georgian film archive in Tbilisi some sections of the original track were lost or destroyed. Because of this approximately 4 minutes of the 'original' track is covered with a Russian Voiceover.  Extras on the disc include an interesting 26 minute interview with Paradjanov's wife Svetlana Scherbatyuk, a 9 minute documentary/interview with Actress Veriko Andzhaparidze, a short featurette (in very poor condition) entitled The Architecture of Ancient Georgia and a photo album - plus static screen cast and crew filmographies.

Ashik Kerib: Again an improved RusCiCo port - the original was compared to the RusCiCo version HERE by Gregory Meshman and those comments remain quite appropriate here. The print used is a shade dirtier than Suram but still looks quite strong. Colors and contrast are quite good and detail is as superior as one could expect. There are four audio options which include the original mono, a (fake) 5.1 bump ,a Russian voiceover (5.1) and a Georgian voiceover (5.1). It has optional English, Spanish or French subtitles. Supplemental material includes Sergei Paradjonov (24 min.) - Documentary: Mikhail Lermontov (12 min.) - Featurette: The Minstrel's Song (5 min.) plus a biography of Lermontov (text screen).        

Well, Kino are noted for some sloppy work (there are even some factual errors in their descriptions on the boxes) and if this was (only) in the hands of just about any other DVD production house - it would undoubtedly be superior. The combing is the big issue but the image quality is significantly improved on 3 of the 4. I think for the price it still amounts to an essential purchase unless you are in possession of 3 (or all) the RusCiCo DVDs anyway. Pomegranates is the black mark but as Paradjanov films are so visual the improvement of the other discs seems immense. With the bountiful supplements, this makes the package extremely desirable. I should note - those previously counting Star Wars or Back to the Future as key elements to their collections should probably not choose these excessively dense works as a starting point for expanding their cinema tastes (try The Bicycle Thief first!). This requires some extreme patience and an acceptance of radically unconventional narrative structures. But for those keen on the works of Tarkovsky- they may be right in their element with this DVD boxset.       

Gary W. Tooze

 

DVD Menus


 

Supplements


 


 

 Keep Case Cover

 

Also available individually here:

 

 

'Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors' aka 'Tini zabutykh predkiv' (1964)

Director: Sergei Paradjanov

 

One of the sadder casualties of Soviet censorship, director Sergei Parajanov spent a sizable chunk of the 1970s in a gulag breaking rocks. Before then, he was drinking aperitifs with Fellini at international film festivals. The reasons for such detentions were never fully clear. (Charges against Parajanov included “homosexuality and illegal trafficking in religious icons”; he was also strongly pro-Ukrainian, a big no-no in the USSR.) Incontestably, they reveal a boldness out of step with the prevailing aesthetic. Can there be a better definition of an artist?

Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors depicts that artistry in its most accessible form. It takes the shape of a romantic myth, set in rough, mountainous terrain during an unspecified part of the 19th century. Here live Carpathian shepherds and farmers. When they marry—as Ivan (Mikolajchuk) and Palagna (Bestayeva) do—they are blindfolded and literally yoked together for the ceremony, thus producing the earliest example of couple’s therapy on film. Elsewhere, as Parajanov’s camera swirls vertiginously to capture harvest festivals and celebrations, you sense a linkage of past and present that’s astounding.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

Screen Captures

 

 

 

 


 Keep Case Cover

 

Also available individually here:

 

 

The Color of Pomegranates (1968)

Director: Sergei Paradjanov

 

Originally refused an export license, Paradjanov's extraordinary film traces the life of 18th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova ('The King of Song'), but with a series of painterly images strung together to form tableaux corresponding to moments of his life rather than any conventional biographic techniques. Pomegranates bleed their juice into the shape of a map of the old region of Armenia, the poet changes sex at least once in the course of his career, angels descend: the result is a stream of religious, poetic and local iconography which has an arcane and astonishing beauty. Much of its meaning must remain essentially specific to the culture from which the film springs, and no one could pretend that it's all readily accessible, but audiences accustomed to the work of Tarkovsky should have little problem.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

Screen Captures

 

 

 

 

 


 Keep Case Cover

 

Also available individually here:

 

 

The Legend of the Suram Fortress (1984)

Director: Sergei Paradjanov 

 

Paradzhanov is one of the most expressive and capable directors to have come out of the Soviet system of film-making, as well as one of the most regularly imprisoned. His ability to transpose imaginary visions to the screen is incomparable (see, for example, The Colour of Pomegranates). Here he uses an old Georgian folk-tale about the need for a young man to be imprisoned in the walls of a fortress to make it strong as the base for a story about the despot of Suram trying to rebuild his kingdom. The storyline is bitty but the images are stunning and burn themselves into your brain. Glorious.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

 

Screen Captures

 

 

Kino (original release) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Kino (Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

 

 


 Keep Case Cover

 

Also available individually here:

 

 

Ashik Kerib (1988)

Director: Sergei Paradjanov 

 

"Sergei Paradjanov's 1988 film, loosely adapted from Lermontov's tale about a Turkish minstrel and maiden, is a relatively minor work with much personal and autobiographical significance. But minor Paradjanov would qualify as something very close to major from most other filmmakers. The style is somewhat akin to the frontal tableaux vivants of The Color of Pomegranates with the addition of some camera movement, dialogue, and offscreen narration; the Azerbaijani dialogue and the subtitled Georgian narration tell the story proper, and the limitation of the visuals in this case is that they tend to be more illustrative than is usual with Paradjanov. But even if Ashik Kerib were only a collection of beautiful shots (and it is clearly more than that), they'd still be some of the most beautiful shots to be found in contemporary Soviet cinema--richly colored, mysterious, and magical."

From Jonathan Rosenbaum's Review at the Chicago Reader located HERE

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Kino (original release) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Kino (Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Kino Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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