I became aware of this film during a workshop with famed video artist Charles Atlas. Sergei Parajanov was one of the great Soviet film makers, and one of the more controversial for his time. After breaking with the institutionally approved “Soviet Realism” style, Parajanov was routinely persecuted, denied funding, and eventually imprisoned for homosexual acts. “Sayat Nova,” “King of Songs,” was the moniker given the 18th century Armenian poet Harutyan Sayatyan (the film is marketed to the English speaking world as “The Color of Pomegranates). As luck would have it, the whole film is on Google video:
It is indeed a feature film of about 70 minutes. If you’re pressed for time and want a taste, I suggest the Prayer Before the Hunt scene at around 19:00. It may give you an appetite for more, as it did for me.
What I love most is how Parajanov uses the still frame and the choreography to activate iconic portraiture. The work is a remarkable marriage of 20th century film editing technology with the image production of the 18th century Persian empire. Fans of Meredith Monk or Christopher Williams should get a kick out of it, as should anyone else who enjoys the poetry of image – it is beautifully composed.