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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

James Steffen's Book on Parajanov

This year clearly has been a year of Parajanov revival. What with a major biopic on the man acted and directed by Serge Avedikian (and co-directed and scripted by Olena Fetisova) as well as a retrospective of Parajanov films shown at the Odessa Film festival this year along with an exhibition of his collages in both Moscow and Odessa. The topping on the cake seems to the year is the first English-language biography of Parajanov by James Steffen. I've been waiting for the publication of this book  for some time and it's great news that it has finally been published. I'm hoping to read it in the near future and plan to review it for a major online film journal (as well as add a smaller review on this blog). Here in the meantime is James Steffen explaining how his own interest in Parajanov has developed over the years:

“I first learned of Parajanov in 1987, when Alan Stanbrook published an article about The Legend of Suram Fortress for the magazine Sight & Sound. I was intrigued by his description of Parajanov’s films, especially their striking use of color. In 1988, during a course in film analysis at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas taught by Jean Decock, we watched excerpts from the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in class and I was completely stunned; it looked like nothing I had seen before, it opened up an entire world to me. That same semester, Yuri Illienko visited Las Vegas on his way to screen his long-banned film A Well for the Thirsty at the San Francisco Film Festival. He was friends with the composer Virko Baley, who was at time the Artistic Director of the Nevada Symphony Orchestra and composed the score for Illienko’s Swan Lake: the ZoneIllienko spoke to the film analysis class and Baley arranged a for a special screening of A Well for the Thirsty and the first few reels of The Eve of IvanKupalo at a theater in town. Those films likewise left a tremendous impression. Later, I saw Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in its entirety in a course on Soviet cinema, and I arranged for a special screening of the Armenian release version (the so-called "director's cut") of The Color of Pomegranates with the help of Hart Wegner, the Chair of the Film Department at UNLV. Even though Parajanov was recognized as a major figure in world cinema and obviously lived a colorful and dramatic life, at that time there was almost nothing published about him in English, so I decided to enroll in graduate school and devote myself to studying him and his work. It has been quite an adventure, learning multiple languages over the years, doing research in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, and meeting many fascinating people as a result.”

James Steffen has his own blog at this address:

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