Paradjanov's most famous film was always a headache for the old Soviet authorities: a queer and obviously dissident paean to the cultures of Armenia and Georgia framed as a spiritual biography of the mysterious 18th century poet Sayat Nova. Paradjanov shot it in 1969. The Kremlin was aghast; it had the film shortened and drastically restructured and didn't allow it out of the country until 1983. Here at last is the director's original film maudit, and it's every second the classic of camp/hieratic cinema it promised to be. The film flows uninterrupted from the poet's childhood to his physical death and spiritual resurrection. The 'story' is still told in gorgeously stylised tableaux crammed with Christian and pagan symbols, but the voluptuous psychedelic imagery has a much more organic coherence. It's now much clearer that the poet's ubiquitous muse also represents his female alter ego, and that his inner torments are as much those of the gay icon St Sebastian as those of the Armenian patriotic martyr. And the explicit visual references to Buñuel and Pasolini underline Paradjanov's own ambivalence about the embrace of the church. The film is more profane than sacred, in fact, and all the more magical for it.
Cast and crew