Sergei Parajanov
Sayat Nova, La couleur de la grenade

En prélude à la projection : oeuvres d’Arno Babadjanian et d’Aram Khatchaturian par des élèves pianistes de l’Académie Rainier III

Arno Babadjanian, Prélude, Danse de Vagharshapat, Toccatina, Capriccio
Aram Khatchatourian, Toccata pour piano en mi bémol mineur, op. 11
Alex Dimitriadis, Yanis Farrugia, piano

Élèves de l’Académie Rainier III de Monaco

Durée approximative 1h30

Itinerary of a poet

“Sayat Nova is one of those (increasingly rare) films that are unlike anything else. Parajanov is one of those (also very rare) who act as if nobody before them had filmed. This makes everything seem like a “first” – a quality in which we recognize great movie-making. What audacity! This is why, faced with Sayat Nova, the last thing you must do is provide an instruction manual. We must let it act on us, surrender to it, relinquish our desire to understand everything right now and avoid analytical interpretation and any form of ‘re-placing-in-context.’ There will always be time, later, to play at knowing everything about 18th century Armenia or the art of the ‘ashugh’.” (Serge Daney, Ciné Journal, “Winter 1981-1982”).

While “Sayat Nova” is “unlike anything else” and while it is indeed necessary to “surrender,” in the face of its living paintings, the plastic beauty of its images and the silence of its characters, it should be noted that this film almost never saw the light of day. Parajanov’s previous film, “Horses of Fire,” had caused a scandal in 1964, for an approach that was far from consistent with the realist doctrine of the Soviet regime. At that period, generally speaking, cultural and artistic circles in the USSR were the target of a wave of repression. It was therefore a relief that, in 1966, the filmmaker was commissioned by Armenfilm Studios, in Yerevan, to make a new film and then given permission to proceed with the shooting, after submitting his script. The Goskino (State Film Committee), in Moscow, however, told the studios to keep a close eye on a project that could well risk straying from the beaten track.

The initial commission was, nonetheless, perfectly in line with the authorities’ wishes – to make a filmed biography of Armenian poet Sayat Nova (1712-1795), who wrote his poems in three languages (Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani) and sang them accompanied by a lute or a kamancheh (bowed fiddle), in the purest tradition of the ashugh (troubadours). This could only please the State Committee, which desired to promote friendship between peoples and internationalism! But Parajanov’s directing once again departed from the realism dear to the Soviets, returning to a primitive cinema, based on fixed cameras, frontal scenes, actors who look at the camera and transformation scenes. “It wasn’t the subject. It wasn’t the established canons of the fate of the poet that were the point of scenario, but the colors, the accessories, the details of the daily life that accompanied the poetry. Here I was trying to portray the art in life, rather than portray life in art,” explained Parajanov. “The picture is very primitive in its structure: there was childhood, there was youth, there was love, there was the monastery, there were the stones. The beloved was a stone, the cell was the beloved, the beloved, her breast is glorified in verse, the rose is glorified in verse. Then there was the thought: my throat is dry, I am ill. The poet dies. Everything is so simple, clear, as in the fate of a great poet.”

Shot between 1967 and 1968, mainly at the monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, the film had the support of the Church, which lent the director numerous relics, making “Sayat Nova” a real treasure trove of Caucasian culture. However, this did not prevent a storm of criticism as soon as the film was completed. While its distribution was authorized in the Soviet Republic of Armenia, after some minor changes (the title became “Color of the Pomegranate” and the text of the intertitles was modified), a new edit was required for the work to be shown in other Soviet republics. When Parajanov refused, the task was entrusted to filmmaker Sergei Yutkevich, who put the sequences in a more chronological order and shortened the overall duration. Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo is showing a copy restored in 2014 (by the Cineteca di Bologna and the Film Foundation, in partnership with the National Cinema Center of Armenia) that is faithful to Parajanov’s version. The President of the Film Foundation, the famous Italian-American director Martin Scorsese, is one of the work’s most fervent admirers. “Watching Sayat Nova is like opening a door and walking into another dimension, where time has stopped and beauty has been unleashed,” he says. “At first glance, it is a biography of the Armenian poet Sayat Nova. Before all else, it is a cinematic experience, and you come away remembering images, repeated expressive movements, costumes, objects, compositions, colors. (…) Parajanov’s cinematic tableaux feel like they’ve been carved in wood or stone, and the colors seem to have naturally materialized from the images over hundreds of years. There’s nothing else quite like this picture.”

Tristan Labouret

Oeuvre The Muse (Sofiko Chiaurely).1969. Frame from the film “Sayat-Nova” (The Colour of Pomegranates) ©Sergei Parajanov

Parking d’Ostende: Forfait spectacle “Festival Printemps des Arts” 4€*
(pay on presentation of the concert ticket at the reception of the car park – valid for an arrival up to 1h before the event. 1st hour free and night rate from 7pm: 0,60€* / hour)  *subject to rate changes in 2022