|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
The Colour of Pomegranates aka "The Color of Pomegranates" or "Sayat Nova" [Blu-ray]
(Sergei Paradjanov, 1969)
Review by Gary Tooze
Video: Second Sight Films / Criterion Collection - Spine # 918
Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Armenian version (‘The Parajanov Cut’) Runtime: 1:19:44.708 / 1:20:09.012
‘The Yutkevich Cut’ Runtime: 1:12:47.291
Blu-ray 1 Size: 45,091,978,854 bytes/ 49,661,295,692 bytes
Parajanov Feature Size: 22,909,941,120 bytes / 24,410,787,840 bytes
Yutkevich Feature Size: 22,021,233,408 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.82 Mbps / 35.02 Mbps / 36.24 Mbps
Chapters: 16 + 17 / 15
Case: Standard (thick) Blu-ray case / Transparent
Release date: February 12th, 2018 / April 17th, 2018
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio Armenian | Azerbaijani | Georgian 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary is annotated (subtitles in English - no voice)
‘The Yutkevich Cut’:
LPCM Audio Armenian | Azerbaijani | Georgian 1536 kbps 2.0 /
48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio Armenian 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48
kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
•New 2K restoration of Sergei Parajanov’s short film ‘Kiev Frescoes’ with optional annotated commentary by Daniel Bird (14:32)
• ‘Poetry, Pomegranates and Parajanov: A new appreciation’ by Daniel Bird (9:14)
• ‘Pomegranates Rediscovered’: Cecilia Cenciarelli of Bologna Cineteca on the multi-national effort to save ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’ (8:38)
• ‘Free Parajanov!’ Tony Rayns on the campaign to free Parajanov (11:40)
• The World is a Window: The Making of the Colour of Pomegranates’ (1:15:59)
• Memories About Sayat Nova: Levon Grigoryan's 2006 documentary featuring extracts from the rushes (31:38)
• Parajanov: A Requiem (59:07)
• 112 page limited edition book featuring Martin Scorsese introduction, archive material, new writings, costume designs and storyboards
audio commentary featuring critic, filmmaker, and festival
programmer Tony Rayns
Description: Sergei Parajanov’s celebrated masterpiece paints an astonishing portrait of the 18th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova, the ‘King of Songs’. Parajanov’s aim was not a conventional biography but a cinematic expression of his work, resulting in an extraordinary visual poem. Key moments in his subject’s life are illustrated through a series of exquisitely orchestrated tableaux filled with rich colour and stunning iconography, each scene a celluloid painting alive with stylised movement.
His baroque masterpiece was banned in the Soviet Union for its religious sentiment and nonconformity to "Socialist realism"; its director, a tirelessly outspoken campaigner for human rights, was convicted on a number of trumped-up charges and sentenced to five years of hard labor in the gulag. A wave of protest from the international film community led to his release in 1978. Aesthetically the most extreme film ever made in the U.S.S.R., Pomegranates, his hallucinatory epic account of the life of the 18th Century Armenian national poet, Sayat Nova, conveys the glory of what a cinema of high art can be like.Excerpt from Amazon located HERE
Originally refused an export license, Paradjanov's extraordinary film traces the life of 18th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova ('The King of Songs'), 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.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Colour of Pomegranates gets a restoration (see below) and Blu-ray transfer from Second Sight Films. Both versions are on a dual-layered disc and both have max'ed out bitrates. There is a second Blu-ray with supplements. Colors (red and golds are notably brilliant) are far more vibrant than SD could relate and the Kino DVD transfer was far from ideal - it was heavily pictureboxed and filled with artifacts. The 1080P supports superior contrast exhibiting rich black levels and some minor depth in the 1.37:1 frame. It's very clean showcasing some strong differences from the two cuts in terms of the visuals. The longer, ‘The Parajanov Cut’, is far more blue-green - even teal, in spots, than the ‘The Yutkevich Cut’. Framing seems the same but both show more information than the older DVD. We will obviously compare to the Criterion in the coming months.
NOTE: The upcoming Criterion Blu-ray package only has the Armenian version ‘The Parajanov Cut’.
NOTE: Text screens prior to the presentation start with the following:
"Two versions of this film
have been restored. The Armenian version ("Parajanov's
cut") was restored using the original camera negative,
provided by Gosfilmofond in Russia as well as a 35mm dupe
negative held by the National Cinema Centre of Armenia. The
Russian version ("Sergei Yutkevic's cut") has been
preserved for posterity using the original camera negative.
Initially Parajanov was upset
that Yutkevich had changed the film, but later in life he
acknowledged that Yutkevich had helped to get the film
released. Still, this Armenian version better reflects
Parajanov's mode of poetic thought. Because Armenian
Communist Party officials objected to the liberties that
Parajanov took with the historical figure of Sayat-Nova,
the famed Armenian ashugh (poet-troubadour). The authorities
in Moscow also complained that the film had
James Steffen tells us in our
FaceBook Group, "Thank you, Gary, for this review. I
posted a (briefer) comment about this in the Criterion
Forum. The question of the "correct" color for this film is
very complicated, and I personally doubt anyone would be
able to come up with a definitive answer. Both the director
and cinematographer are long dead. Having seen both versions
(the Armenian and the Yutkevich version) multiple times on
35mm, the color on every print I've seen has been uneven to
Criterion only has The Parajanov Cut and is utilizing a 4K digital restoration, undertaken by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna and have given us a slightly darker color grading than the Second Sight release. It's dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. Blacks are somewhat darker and colors look richer and deeper. Both releases are very similar otherwise but the Criterion slightly improves with regards to the blacks/colors.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The Second Sight Blu-ray versions of The Colour of Pomegranates offer linear PCM 2.0 channel mono tracks (16-bit) for both cuts. Tigran Mansuryan's beautiful score ranges from traditional music to poetic artistic songs and sounds wonderful via the uncompressed transfer - certainly far in advance of any time I have ever hear it previously. It's tight with a prominent high-end but is not tinny or unpleasantly brittle. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
The film is presented in lossless 24-bit PCM 1.0 in Armenian with English subtitles. This presentation sounds identical to the previous Second Sight release, at least to my ears. The Criterion Blu-ray is, predictably, Region 'A'-locked.
Previously we have been mostly devoid of, much desired, extras in regards to Paradjanov films on digital. I was so happy to see the offerings of this Second Sight's Blu-ray release. There is an optional annotated commentary on the ‘Armenian Cut’ by James Steffen, author of ‘The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov’ and advisor on the new restoration. This subtitled commentary offers an alternative to the usual audio commentary track. Steffen wanted viewers to listen to the film as well as watch it since the soundtrack is every bit as extraordinary as the film's justifiably famous images. The first Blu-ray, with the features, also has an optional audio commentary on the ‘Yutkevich Cut’ by Levon Abrahamyan. His accent is prominent but discernable and there is some fascinating information imparted.
On the second Blu-ray is a new 2K restoration of Sergei Parajanov’s 1/4 film ‘Kiev Frescoes’. It was an aborted project that Paradjanov planned to follow-up his Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors from 1964. It has a valuable annotated commentary by Daniel Bird who is also the director of The World is a Window: the 75-minute documentary about the making of Sergei Paradjanov's The Colour of Pomegranates shot in Armenia, Georgia and Russia (for Second Sight Films, UK) that is also included in this second Blu-ray of extras. ‘Poetry, Pomegranates and Parajanov' is a new, 9-minute, appreciation by Bird. ‘Pomegranates Rediscovered’ has Cecilia Cenciarelli of Bologna Cineteca on the multi-national effort to save ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’. It runs 8.5 minutes. ‘Free Parajanov!’ has a dozen minutes of Tony Rayns on the campaign to free Parajanov - almost like a visual essay. Memories About Sayat Nova is Levon Grigoryan's 1/2 hour 2006 documentary featuring extracts from the feature's dailies plus Parajanov: A Requiem is Ron Holloway hour-long interview excerpts with Parajanov citing references of him as an artist, dissident, romantic and iconoclast. The package has a 112 page limited edition book featuring Martin Scorsese introduction, archive material, new writings, costume designs and storyboards.
Running roughly 18 minutes is a 2017 Criterion Collection interview with film scholar James Steffen (The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov), addressing the making of The Color of Pomegranates. The Color of Armenian Land, running about 17-minutes is directed by Mikhail Vartanov. This rarely screened impressionistic documentary from 1969 features footage of Sergei Parajanov making The Color of Pomegranates. In the 1969 debut, director Mikhail Vartanov realizes an impressionistic presentation of the ancient and modern art of Armenia. Because it featured his nonconformist friends, including the filmmaker Sergei Parajanov (improvised in 1973) and the painter Minas Avetisyan (assassinated in 1975), this film was suppressed, and Vartanov was blacklisted. Twenty years later, his artistic freedom was restored, and he responded with Minas: A Requiem (1989) and Parajanov: The Last Spring (1992), completing a trilogy. Also provided in this release is the 17-minute 1969 doc, "The Color of Armenian Land" which had its first public screening in forty-three years at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival's Parajanov/Vartanov retrospective. Criterion also gives us, "Decoding The Color of Pomegranates", a 42 minute 2017 video-essay produced by the Criterion Collection. In it, film scholar James Steffen offers a close reading of the symbols and references in The Color of Pomegranates. There is also a commentary recorded for the Criterion Collection in 2017. This track features critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns. The Last Film is a 2015 experimental short documentary by Martiros M. Vartanov, founder of the Parajanov-Vartanov Institute. It pays stylistic tribute to filmmakers Sergei Parajanov and Mikhail Vartanov. Sergei Parajanov: The Rebel is a candid 2003 documentary running just under an hour. The film profiles Sergei Parajanov, and includes interviews with the filmmaker and actor Sofiko Chiaureli. The Life of Sayat-Nova: which originally aired March 6th, 1977, on the TF1 program Foi et traditions des chrétiens orientaux, and is directed by Carlos de los Llanos. This program details the life of Armenian poet Sayat-Nova, the inspiration for the film The Color of Pomegranates.
Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray1
Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray 2
Criterion (‘The Parajanov Cut’) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
The Criterion is only The Parajanov Cut and it a s light visual advantage with the richer colors and contrast. Criterion also have wonderful extras including a commentary. It's a must-own restoration for the director's fanbase and remains and unforgettable film experience looking better than ever before in digital. Strongly recomended!
January 22nd, 2018
March 08, 2018