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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who is Sergei Pardjanov?

Though unanimously hailed by international critics as one of the most significant forces in 20th century Eastern European cinema, Georgian filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov paradoxically completed only a scant few motion pictures during his lifetime. Paradjanov lived until his 66th year, but lengthy periods of incarceration kept the director out of commission (thanks to his dissident political attitudes) and made it impossible for him to complete a sizeable body of work.
1964 marked a watershed period for Paradjanov, however. That year, he consciously broke free from his need to emulate the social realists, and forked off in the direction of cinematic folklore with Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (aka Teni Zabytykh Predkov). Freely adapted from a short story by the revered Ukrainian author Mikhaylo Kotsyubinsky, and set in a mid-19th century rural village in the Carpathian Mountains, amid the Hutzul people, this Capulet and Montague-like fable tells of the forbidden love affair between a young man, Ivan (Ivan Mikolaichuk), and a young woman, Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), whose families are at complete odds. When Marichka dies in a tragic accident, Ivan marries an affluent landowner (Tatyana Bestaeva), but cannot forget his first love; he ultimately concludes that the only satisfaction for his soul lies in unity with his paramour through death. His wish is finally granted when his wife and the local sorcerer plot to have him executed. Paradjanov shot the film in color and drenched it not only with Felliniesque, carnival-like images, but with Hutzul costumes, folk songs, and traditions. Although the Russian public responded coolly to the work (with occasional derision), it encountered benevolent critical reviews in the U.S.S.R. and towering enthusiasm around the world. American journalists and filmgoers hailed it as a triumph, and the work netted 16 international awards including the Grand Prix at Mar del Plata.

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