The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov
James Steffen

Wisconsin Film Studies
Patrick McGilligan, Series Editor

“In the temple of cinema, there are images, light, and reality. Sergei Parajanov was the master of that temple.”
—Jean-Luc Godard

“Steffen has managed to capture Parajanov’s unique style in a language that is simple and elucidating, making you want to watch his films again and again.”
—Birgit Beumers, editor of Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema

Sergei Parajanov (1924–90) flouted the rules of both filmmaking and society in the Soviet Union and paid a heavy personal price. An ethnic Armenian in the multicultural atmosphere of Tbilisi, Georgia, he was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema. Parajanov succeeded in creating a small but marvelous body of work whose style embraces such diverse influences as folk art, medieval miniature painting, early cinema, Russian and European art films, surrealism, and Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cultural motifs.

The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov is the first English-language book on the director’s films and the most comprehensive study of his work. James Steffen provides a detailed overview of Parajanov’s artistic career: his identity as an Armenian in Georgia and its impact on his aesthetics; his early films in Ukraine; his international breakthrough in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors;his challenging 1969 masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates, which was reedited against his wishes; his unrealized projects in the 1970s; and his eventual return to international prominence in the mid-to-late 1980s with The Legend of the Surami Fortress and Ashik-Kerib. Steffen also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the Soviet film censorship process and tells the dramatic story of Parajanov’s conflicts with the authorities, culminating in his 1973–77 arrest and imprisonment on charges related to homosexuality.

Ultimately, the figure of Parajanov offers a fascinating case study in the complicated dynamics of power, politics, nationality, sexuality, and culture in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

James Steffen is film and media studies librarian at Emory University in Atlanta and a historian of Soviet and post-Soviet cinema. For more information, visit<>.

October 2013
LC: 2013010422 PN
326 pp.   6 x 9   43 b/w illus.,
1 table

Paper $29.95
ISBN 978-0-299-29654-4

eBook $24.95
ISBN 978-0-299-29653-7

A Mellon Slavic Studies Initiative Book
This book is part of an initiative for publishing first books by scholars in the fields of Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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