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Paradjanov, Sergei (1924-1990)  
 
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This charming picaresque tells of a plebe who gets his freedom and sets off to buy that of his wife, a fortune-teller. The film pivots on the concept that the Georgian way of life, symbolized by the besieged fortress of the title, can be saved only if a young man is willing to be walled up inside it.

This metaphor for a rich regional culture threatened by an oppressive larger one was surely not lost on Paradjanov's detractors, but the film, with its gorgeous Georgian landscapes and fantastic imagery, happily, has outlived its enemies.

Sponsor Message.

Paradjanov's final film, Ashik Kerib (1988), was dedicated to his late friend and compadre Andrei Tarkovsky, who also suffered tremendously at the hands of reactionary Russian authorities. Based on a story by Mikhail Lermontov and shot in the Georgia/Azerbaijan area that was Paradjanov's inspiration, the film is a typical phantasmagoria of folkloric imagery whose power is heightened by a rich score of regional music.

Ashik is an impoverished minstrel (played by Yuri Mgoyan, a handsome petty criminal hired by Paradjanov). He must find "bride-money" to marry the daughter of a rich Turkish merchant.

This simple plot gives Paradjanov plenty of room to play as Ashik encounters a series of tests in the classic heroic mold, and play he does in such unforgettable scenes as a "wedding of the blind, deaf and dumb" at which Ashik's music entrances the participants.

Ashik's search is an immersion into the transcendent beauty and power of folk culture, which Paradjanov fleshes out with vivid colors, elaborate costumes and headgear, and riotous blends of music, dance, and movement. Even the simplest images show the director's constant theme of the triumph of nature over the temporal, as when falling rose petals replace the dowry of diamonds that Ashik cannot afford.

Some critics have seen Ashik Kerib as a parable for Paradjanov's oppression by the government, with the director himself represented by the hapless lute player wandering through a blasted landscape of lost souls. But this interpretation misses the celebratory, indeed transcendent quality of image and sound that are the film's driving force. If Paradjanov was not reconciled to the political abuse he suffered, it is impossible to tell from his final film.

After Paradjanov's death on July 21, 1990, his home in Yerevan was converted into a museum containing some of his writings (Leonid Alekseychuk says he wrote 23 scripts and 50 volumes of diaries) and several hundred of his artworks, including some he made during his imprisonment.

Gary Morris

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    Bibliography
   

Alekseychuk, Leonid, "A Warrior in the Field." Sight and Sound 60 (Winter 1990-1991): 22-26.

Holloway, Ron. "Interview with Sergei Paradjanov." Kinema (Spring 1996; conducted July 1, 1988), online, http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/FINE/juhde/hollo961.htm. Accessed October 30, 2001.

Murray, Raymond. Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video. New York: Plume, 1996.

"Paradjanov, Sergei." World Film Directors. John Wakeman, ed. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1988. 2:735-739.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Morris, Gary  
    Entry Title: Paradjanov, Sergei  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 9, 2013  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/paradjanov_s.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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