The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov

The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov

by James Steffen


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Sergei Parajanov (1924–90) flouted the rules of both filmmaking and society in the Soviet Union and paid a heavy personal price. An ethnic Armenian in the multicultural atmosphere of Tbilisi, Georgia, he was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema. Parajanov succeeded in creating a small but marvelous body of work whose style embraces such diverse influences as folk art, medieval miniature painting, early cinema, Russian and European art films, surrealism, and Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cultural motifs.

The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov is the first English-language book on the director's films and the most comprehensive study of his work. James Steffen provides a detailed overview of Parajanov's artistic career: his identity as an Armenian in Georgia and its impact on his aesthetics; his early films in Ukraine; his international breakthrough in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; his challenging 1969 masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates, which was reedited against his wishes; his unrealized projects in the 1970s; and his eventual return to international prominence in the mid-to-late 1980s with The Legend of the Surami Fortress and Ashik-Kerib. Steffen also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the Soviet film censorship process and tells the dramatic story of Parajanov's conflicts with the authorities, culminating in his 1973–77 arrest and imprisonment on charges related to homosexuality.

Ultimately, the figure of Parajanov offers a fascinating case study in the complicated dynamics of power, nationality, politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and culture in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780299296544
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Series: Wisconsin Film Studies Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 326
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

James Steffen is film and media studies librarian at Emory University in Atlanta and a historian of Soviet and post-Soviet cinema. For more information, visit

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Note on Transliteration         
1 An Artist's Origins 
2 Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: Ukrainian Revival          
3 Kyiv Frescoes: The Film That Might Have Been   
4 The Color of Pomegranates: The Making and Unmaking of a Film           
5 Silent Years: Unproduced Scripts, 1967–1973       
6 Arrest and Imprisonment, 1973–1982       
7 The Legend of the Surami Fortress: Thunder Over Georgia          
8 Ashik-Kerib and the End of a Career          
Epilogue: Parajanov's Afterlife          
Selected Bibliography            Index

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