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I May Destroy You
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Masterful work. So beautiful.
I chose this to be the first film I cover in here. Not everything I write in this thread is going to be this long, but since this is the first post here, I might as well make it a bit longer than usual. My first experience with Parajanov was with The Color of Pomegranates. While I loved the visuals, music, and the dancing, I had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around what the film meant. I'll probably revisit it sometime in the future as my experience with this film makes me wonder if it was even necessary to understand it. My next experience was with this film. Although I saw it a while back, I felt I didn't give it nearly enough credit, which I largely blame on how I was still new to feeling-driven films which relied heavily on the strengths of their visuals, camerawork, etc. I was more used to narrative-driven films. Having obtained some more experience with it though, I decided to revisit this one, leading me to develop a far deeper appreciation of it.
The first thing I noticed upon diving in other than being reminded of how memorable the opening scene is was the camerawork. At times, the camera movement proves to be swift and energetic in a way which I don't think I've seen in film before. It quickly darts from set piece to set piece in an environment, only focusing on someone or something for a couple seconds at a time before it darts off to something or someone new. Nature is also utilized by the camerawork in certain scenes, the most notable of which is of the adult Ivan and Marichka spending a couple moments with each other in the wild, as they're surrounded by plants which partially obscure them throughout the scene, causing it to feel all the more tender.
Other stylistic merits include the brief transitions of the visual styles. While the transition from color to black and white may seem fairly obvious in terms of what it's trying to convey, this viewing led to me finding more merits with it. The first black and white shot could easily be mistaken for a shot in a horror film. The way the wind repeatedly blows a door open and closed is a creepy image. Most of the black and white scenes after that masterful shot maintain a similar vibe. They mostly consist of showing Ivan in the aftermath of the incident, who doesn't utter a single word throughout this sequence (he doesn't speak that much throughout the remainder of the film as well). Instead, the dialogue consists of voice-overs by a number of characters discussing how Ivan lost Marichka, how he's lonely as a result, etc. It's a quietly unsettling sequence, which makes great usage of a few notable concepts. Other notable scenes include the slight visual distortions after the sorcerer strikes him near the final act, signifying the beginning of the end.
While the stylistic merits of this film are certainly strong and varied, I think the music also deserves a lot of credit. I'm not that familiar with this style of music, but it adds so much to the whole affair. I first heard of this film when I saw a segment of the Christmas scene in a youtube video. I was still fairly new to classic films and especially foreign films, but the brief snippet of music in that clip made me want to see it. What's special about the soundtrack is that it doesn't feel like it's just there to exist in the background or that it could be cut without losing much from the film. It's so expressive, so full of life that it feels like an integral part of the film, as if it's a character itself.
The best way I can sum up all the stylistic merits of the film is that the whole affair feels like folklore. Overall, this is definitely a great film and I'm glad that it gets to start off this thread.
Hunter S Thompson once wrote, "it never got weird enough for me." If he were alive I'd ask if ever laid his crazed genius eyes on this. It makes the feverish camera if I Am Cuba look as minimalist as Stranger Than Paradise. Near the cameraman isn't AS insane in the last third of the film as in the rest, but it's still such a virtuoso directing and it using light and sound and horses and houses and uh skeletons on tree branches and ALL THE IMAGERY JESUS CHRIST EVER INSPIRED.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors calls out for a different way to make cinema that is ambitious and delirious and so out there as to be both sacred AND profane, if that can make any sense. A part of me may even love the film for how much it embraces the wild and the visual, like if it was done during the silent film era it might be even stronger (albeit we would lose the many Russian songs and music which is part of the whole piece it is). There are no rules that can't be broken for Parajanov which is liberat KH and thrilling. And dangerous.
If only I could connect more to Ivankos plight and struggle instead of admiring it on a technical level (yeah I think I'm turninng into that asshole on the movie like in Annie Hall), if Parajanov made Ivankos interior struggle or the mania that his wife succumbs to once into sorcery and lust in another man, then it would be a masterpiece (possibly). Since the movie Is presented in such a subjective way I can't help but respond to what I see as honestly as possible, and it's both impressive for just how far this director and his DP get on the train to complete abandon of realism while at the same time leaving me... cold somehow, on a first viewing. I must stress that the issue may be more with me - I understand what is going on, how much the film is sad and heart rending like a poem that is howling to the winds and heavens, and the actors sell it best they can - and I don't regret seeing it for a second.
Holy vodka sauce batman this may take some time to process, although a part of me thought it funny that it reminded me of my own feature, 'Green Eyes', only this time suffused in folklore and hysteria.
Set in the Carpathians, this film of love & loss is a delight to the senses, & is quite possibly the greatest non-silent Russian film I'm ever seen. Paradzhanov is a cinematic genius I'm happy to finally know.
The Soviets suppressed the works of Sergei Paradjanov because they seemed to promote religious belief and local culture (and therefore separatism). However, in doing so, they effectively quashed a great talent. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors tells a simple story of an impossible love between a boy and a girl from two fighting families in the 19th century, but it is endlessly inventive in its visual choices and increasingly bizarre in its plot, encompassing not just Christianity but earlier pagan beliefs. Somehow, Paradjanov places his camera (handled by cinematographer Yuri Ilyenko) in fire and under water, shooting out at Ivan, the hero of the story. He includes large dramatic close-ups of mustachioed faces (of the Eastern European variety) and beautiful long-shots that make landscapes look like exquisitely patterned tapestries (as when he shoots a hillside of tree stumps, with each stump on fire). Ivan's story is a sad one, as his first true love drowns and he descends into loneliness and alcoholism (and the film fades from brilliant color to B&W), only recovering when he meets earthy Palagna and marries her. But his steadfast devotion to his dead lover leads his new marriage into despair and Palagna turns to sorcery. Ivan's death is celebrated with a Ukrainian ritual, as are all the other major events of the film, apparently drawn from Paradjanov's knowledge of the Hutsul people of the Carpathian Mountains. But trying to explain this film in words is an impossible challenge, you need to see this lofty peak of world cinema yourself.
I had no expectations going into SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS, mostly because I knew very little about it beforehand. What I can say now is that it was more interesting from an artistic point of view than the actual story it tells. The basic plot is about a boy, Ivanko, who falls in love with a girl, Marichko. However, fate conspires to keep them apart and a fateful turn of events sets Ivanko down a course that changes his life forever. The elements I liked about the film, and what makes it stand out, are the cinematography, use of color, costumes, and the occasionally poetic image. The camera-work was rather improvisatory and free-moving with lots of high-angle shots, often pointed at the sky. There was also a conscious choice in one sequence to film in black-and-white for narrative reasons, to visually depict the protagonist's emotional state. As for imagery, there were a few sequences which stood out. One early scene showed blood dripping over the lens as a way to show someone dying, transitioning respectively into red horses and some kind of red plant. There was also creative use of double exposure in a scene where the characters are overlaid onto religious iconography. All of this was engaging and unique in a way that the story wasn't. I have a feeling that more familiarity with Ukrainian culture and folklore would have made the story a little more accessible, but I don't really think that the story was entirely the point. In fact, the acting in the film really isn't that good, and the film often felt like a filmed stage play where the intended audience is already familiar with the character archetypes and tropes. It also doesn't help that the film is episodic, with awkward and occasionally jarring scene transitions. Overall, this film's value (to me, at least) lies in its images and music. I don't really see the average film-watcher taking the time to see this, but this could potentially be worth it for the more adventurous person.
Parajanov first film post imposed social realism is a little treat and a beautiful exploration of cinema by a master director who became a game changer with this tale of a contradicted love doomed from the start but beautifully shot and endlessly compelling. The film is a feast of colors, traditional costumes and depiction of the rural Carpathian world. This sort of Romeo &Juliet story is wonderfully shot and some of the sequences are absolutely breathtaking. This film is a departure from the classical narrative linear form although it is fairly easy to understand and develops chronologically. Some people may be disturbed or annoyed by some of the visual and narrative style but overall it's a film that deserves to be seen as an experience for the senses. Great film.
Luminous, breath-taking visuals incomparable to almost anything else in cinema.
Sad and surreal love story...
People should look at this movie, I mean really look at it , because there isn't a shot in this Russian folk tale that isn't bursting with life, hallucinatory color, & imagination