Memories of the Caucasus

(Kavkazskie Capricio)
(Russian docu)

Georgii Vlasenko's Memories of the Caucasus is a lyrical and pictorially stunning tribute to Armenian filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov, who died in l990 at the age of 66. Defying easy classification, Memories is not exactly a documentary; viewers expecting chronology or interpretation of main events in Paradjanov's life will be disappointed. Vlasenko's brief pic calls attention to one dimension of Paradjanov's art: his painterly style. Breathtaking cinematography is a sensory treat, but disparate images don't coalesce into a coherent structure, making docu accessible only to cineastes.

Docu's main strength is in capturing the beauty of the Great Caucasian mountains that inspired Paradjanov. Self-conscious docu contains scintillating images that have hallucinatory, dreamlike quality. But visuals can be enjoyed almost without relation to recited poetry (by Lermontov), and quotations, some from Paradjanov's films. Lensers Oleg Martinov and Semion Fridland and editor Galina Dmitrieva have accomplished an admirable task: a tapestry of images, still photos and paintings that moodily convey selective episodes from Paradjanov's tragic existence.

Docu doesn't trace artist's life so much as comments on it, illustrating his recollections through footage from his own work. It captures the surrealistic quality, lyricism and mysticism that marked Paradjanov's films, the best of which were rooted in Armenian culture and history. There are excellent tableaux form the l969 Sajat Nova, the story of the 18th century Armenian monk, poet and national hero, killed by the Persians for his refusal to renounce Christ. When Paradjanov refused to cut his film, it was butchered by another editor and released (in limited distribution) in the Soviet Union in l972 as The Color of Pomegranates.

Interspersed into docu are interviews with artists who knew him. Actress Sofiko Tchiaureli discusses the nature of his genius and his inherent loneliness, though he was always surrounded by worshippers. Paradjanov could be whimsical too; when actress visited sick artist, he played for her a whole scene from Camille.

However, most of the comments (“he was a pure artist,” “his talent was universal”) mythologize rather than illuminate the courageously radical artist, persecuted by Soviet authorities on political, artistic and sexual grounds. Promoting Paradjanov's visibility, docu will hopefully result in a retrospective of his films.


Sines Company production. Produced, Directed, written by Georgii Vlasenko. Camera (color), Oleg Martinov, Semion Fridland; editor, Galina Dmitrieva; music, Teimuraz Bakuradze. Reviewed at the American Film Institute, L.A. (In AFI/L.A. FilmFest).

Running time: 57 minutes.

With Sofiko Tchiaureli, Levan Abashidze.