Blu-Ray Review: The Colour of Pomegranates

Sergei Parajanov will be an unfamiliar name to most Western readers, however he was notorious and famous within cinematic circles of Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s. His directorial vision was at odds with the social realism demanded by the regime. He was frequently in trouble with the authorities, banned from working and ultimately imprisoned. He disowned his earlier work, eventually receiving acclaim on the international stage for his 1965 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Four years later came his masterpiece, The Colour of Pomegranates.

The Colour of Pomegranates is a biography of the great Armenian poet, singer and musician Sayat-Nova. The ‘King of Songs’ wrote is several languages, making him a legend across several countries. Writing and performing at a time of great religious piety (18th century) and a priest himself, he created great romantic and secular works. Parajanov doesn’t attempt to tell the story in a traditional way. Instead, he mixes Sayat-Nova’s writings and his own symbolic (often religious) imagery.

It’s a miracle in itself that we’re able to see the original cut today. The authorities cut Parajanov’s film and hired another film-maker (Sergei Yutkevich) to re-cut the film, and this is the release which has been largely screened since. This new restoration is as close to the original as possible. Visually, the difference is striking. The colours feel fresh and vibrant. As a biographical film, The Colour of Pomegranates is knowingly obtuse. It’s a startlingly striking and boldly poetic portrait of a legend.

Special Limited Edition Features:

Disc 1

  • Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation restoration of the the Armenian version (‘The Parajanov Cut’)
  • The Russian version (‘The Yutkevich Cut’) prepared using The Film Foundation’s restored material
  • Optional annotated commentary on the ‘Armenian Cut’ by James Steffen, author of ‘The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov’ and advisor on the new restoration
  • Optional audio commentary on the ‘Yutkevich Cut’ by Levon Abrahamyan

Disc 2

  • New 2K restoration of Sergei Parajanov’s short film ‘Kiev Frescoes’ with optional annotated commentary by Daniel Bird
  • ‘Poetry, Pomegranates and Parajanov: A new appreciation’ by Daniel Bird
  • ‘Pomegranates Rediscovered’: Cecilia Cenciarelli of Bologna Cineteca on the multi-national effort to save ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’
  • ‘Free Parajanov!’ Tony Rayns on the campaign to free Parajanov
  • The World is a Window: The Making of the Colour of Pomegranates’
  • Memories About Sayat Nova: Levon Grigoryan’s 2006 documentary featuring extracts from the rushes
  • Parajanov: A Requiem
  • 112 page limited edition book featuring Martin Scorsese introduction, archive material, new writings, costume designs and storyboards

The Colour of Pomegranates is released on Blu-ray by Second Sight on 19 February.

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