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The Legend of Suram Fortress

August 30, 2013

Along with Love Exposure, the other great thrill in movie-watching for me this summer was Sergei Paradjanov’s The Legend of Suram Fortress. I have already posted about The Color of Pomegranates and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; this movie, released in 1984 after the Soviet authorities had kept him silent and sometimes imprisoned for over a decade, is a worthy successor. I am now willing to say, for whatever it is worth and for whomever keeps track of these things (surely someone must, somewhere deep in the bowels of the NSA), that Paradjanov is my favorite filmmaker. (For some time I was settled on the triumvirate of Hawks, Tarkovsky, and Herzog,– I hope now that they will take no offense, as Sergei needs the support more.)

I would like to see this film again before attempting to write about, not least because I had barely any idea what was going on in it.  It is very much like the two earlier films, but with enough variation in style and subject to keep it from seeming like a repetition. In terms of camerawork, for example, it has neither the organic fluidity of Shadows nor the hieratic rigidity of Color, but finds a stately style in between, mostly static but occasionally not, with more open framing than Color. And it is about Georgians rather than Ukrainians or Armenians, and set in earlier times, though this will not make much of a difference to most American viewers. And different livestock come to the fore.

All that really mattered to me was that it gave me joy. The kind you feel welling up in your chest. The joy of wonder and awe, of the delight in beauty. A rare enough thing to elevate the obscure to the favorite.

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