- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 January 16, 2004 

Remembering the Magician: Fans memorialize Parajanov's 80th year

"Parajanov was shackled by iron bars . . . ".

"Everything is beautiful if you look at everything through beauty."

With exactly such a look things thrown in the garbage were transformed into masterpieces of art in the hands of film director Sergey Parajanov. His ability to find beauty in everything transformed broken dishes into bouquets of glass; turned a worn-out suitcase preserved from childhood into an elephant.

This year Sergey Parajanov would have become 80 years old. The internationally-acclaimed artist died in 1990 at the age of 66, following years of Soviet persecution.

On January 9, incense the color of pomegranate and wine was burned on his grave in Yerevan's Pantheon. Relatives and friends covered his tombstone with flowers and pomegranates. And in his home/museum overlooking the Zangu gorge in Yerevan, they gathered to cook harissa and celebrate his memory.

On the occasion of his 80th anniversary, countries influenced by Parajanov's work will mark his birth with special events. Plans are underway for events in Armenia, in Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi. And in California, an exhibit of items from the Parajanov Museum, including his latest films, unique art collages, posters from his films, videos about his work, and photographs by Yuri Mechitov are on exhbit at Hollywood Entertainment Museum through next month.

Deputy Director Barkhudaryan says Parajanov looked forward to living in a "normal" house.

Beauty as the highest value and the truth as a creative principle were the most important components of Parajanov's art which gave birth to a legend that became known to the world as Parajanov's film.

"His art doesn't come from the past but it is still in the future, it hasn't been appreciated yet and it hasn't been understood yet," says cameraman Albert Yavuryan, who used to work with Parajanov.

It's natural that Parajanov's movies, which never found room within the narrow bounds of Soviet ideology and "morals", caused not only great excitement of the audience but insatiable anger of Party elite as well. At least 40 ideas and scripts of the artist were destroyed before they we developed.

"Parajanov was shackled by iron bonds and his universal talent, which could create the entire constellation of art works, created only four. However, these four creations were enough to make the entire world talk about him," says art critic Ida Fljyan.

He paid a high price for being talented. When he was a young film director he was subjected to forced idleness for 15 years and during that time period he was forbidden to make movies.

But even during those years Sergey Parajanov could create fascinating collages made of wood, metal, paper, colored glass, photographs, and other items. These collages dealt with mortality, despair, religion, friendship, and politics.

Parajanov bravely mixed myth, history, folklore and aestheticism into surrealistic montages of a rather tumultuous period of the USSR's history. One of his most popular works, "Shadow of our Forgotten Ancestors" (1964), brought him 28 international awards. It is a tragic love story celebrating Ukrainian folk culture, which resulted in the imprisonment of Parajanov by the Soviet authorities for alleged incitement of Ukrainian nationalism in the country. "The Color of Pomegranates" (1968) is another popular film. It is about Armenian poet and composer Sayat Nova. This movie also highly infuriated Soviet authorities. In 1974 Parajanov was sentenced to a labor camp for five years, based on fabricated accusations of illegal trafficking of religious icons, and incitement to suicide and homosexuality.

"What is my biography . . ."

A worldwide campaign, lead by French writer Louis Aragon, Italian film director Federico Fellini and American novelist John Updike, persuaded the Soviet authorities to release him, after serving four years in prison. In 1982 based on more fabricated charges by the government, Parajanov was arrested again and served another 11 months in prison, before finally being exonerated.

During the last 10 years of his life he managed to produce only two films: "The Legend of Suram Fortress" and "Ashik Kerib". His movies won more than 30 awards at different film festivals. His name had pierced the Iron Curtain, but it was not until 1988 that the director could personally accept his international acclaim. That year, he was honored at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

"My name, biography… I do not remember my life history well enough. What is my biography? Pain. This is the endless form of my life," Parajanov once said.

In 1990 Parajanov (who was born in Georgia and lived in Kiev) came to Armenia, from where he was to travel to France. He had already been sick with cancer by that time. Ministries of Culture and Healthcare of France sent a special plane for him so that he could go to France for treatment.

"Before his departure he came to see his house and museum, which was half-built by that time. He was very excited. He told that when he would recover his health he would return and finally would be living in a normal house," says deputy director of Parajanov's House Museum Vigen Barkhudaryan.

However, he never returned and his museum, where he spent only 20 minutes, was opened only after his death on July 27, 1991. His entire life with pains and hopes, with thrown away puppets and faded photographs is a reborn world about which Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni wrote:

"With the death of Parajanov cinema lost one of its magicians. Parajanov's fantasy will forever fascinate and bring joy to the people of the world."


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