The Legend of the Suram Fortress

1986 folk tale adaptation

Rating: 17/20

Plot: All these crazy Georgian cats want to do is build their goddamn fortress, but it keeps falling down. Drastic measures have to be taken to ensure that the walls will stand.

My third Sergei Parajanov movie (see this one here and that one there, both highly recommended for anybody with a tolerance for the unconventional) and another winner. This one came after a lengthy sabbatical when Parajanov was jailed for homosexuality and smuggling religious icons [My guess is that doing just one of those is fine, but combined? Oh, boy.] and is somewhere in between The Color of Pomegranates and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, borrowing the folkloric source material and general narrative feel of the latter and the visual flair and complete abandoning of cinematic conventions of the former. Being from Georgia, Parajanov's movies are naturally foreign, but his are in this second level of foreign movies, the types of film that seem almost alien or made by a creative spirit who either hasn't seen very many movies, refuses to be influenced by other movies, or just can't obey the rules. His movies are in a different spoken language, but they're also in a completely new cinematic language. Like Pomegranates, this has these great artistic shots filled with numerous colors and is stuffed with symbols, most which I'm missing too much cultural context to really connect with. The actors stare mutely directly into the camera, and although there are some close-ups, most of the movie is made up of these deep deep (way back, it might be, it could be, it is) long shots where you almost have to squint to see what's going on. The narrative's confusing, but the strong mood makes up for it and I always felt like I had enough of the plot to grasp on to keep me from being frustrated. Also like Pomegranates, I couldn't piece everything together, but the visual details and novel camera work kept me interested for the duration. It's like my brain was saying, "Hey, wait a second. Can we pop in Dumb and Dumber or something? This Russian crap is confusing!" but my eyes just kept saying, "Ssshh! Hold up a second. Let's see what Parajanov shows us next!" and my brain answered, "Fine! I never get what I want! I need to be in the cranium of somebody who's not a pretentious knob!" and my eyes said, "If you don't shut up, I'm coming up there!" My ears then added, "Hey, the music's really cool, too! It'd be nice if I could hear it over your bitchin', Central Nervous System!" I had to pause the film so my nutsack, the pacifist, could break up the little fight. Anyway, a great movie for that class of cinephile like me who appreciate visuals and aesthetics more than anything else going on in a movie.

There's one more essential Parajanov (Paradjanov?) film--Ashik Kerib--to watch and then I'll revisit those other two again. And speaking of movies from this area of the world, I just remembered my goal to watch all of Tarkovsky's movies this year.

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