After being impressed with Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965), I was actually looking forward to his even more highly-regarded The Color of Pomegranates (1968) — a film that both baffled and angered Soviet censors. I have to say, I understand how they felt. If I was still in high school, I might have classified the film as “I didn’t understand it, so it must be art.” From a perspective long past high school, I can only say I didn’t understand it and I didn’t like it, but I don’t feel like I can say it’s bad. I admit I know nothing about the Armenian poet Sayat Nova from whose life and works the film is drawn and that may be a factor. (However, from what I can tell from the film itself, I doubt I’d respond to his works.) To say that this isn’t a traditional biopic is an understatement. The (thankfully) short film (78 minutes) is a series of tableaux illustrating — more or less — his poems and life. The film often resembles the old trick films of Georges Melies with characters popping in and out of the scenes observed by a nailed-down camera. A great many people appear to consider this beautiful and brimming with meaning. I found the images occasionally striking, and sometimes bizarre, but I never connected with them in any meaningful way. You may feel differently.
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