About 15 years ago, shortly before putting make up on me and making me wear glittery-archaic priestly garb and an outlandish hat in one of her films, my friend Gariné Torossian sat me down and had me watch films by the Georgian-Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, the fabricator of delirious fantasies in saturated texture and color. Outspoken and irreverent, though hardly a political player, he was imprisoned several times by the Soviet authorities and in various ways prevented from making all but a handful of films. His films are layered rather than linear, meditations rather than stories, collages unfolding through time, and so he found ways to continue creating under adverse conditions mostly by making assemblage art: cutting things up and putting them together, secreting new associations out of them. “A collage is a compressed film,” he famously said. He might also have said, a collage is a repressed film.
For that reason, and also because he was an irrepressible collector of wonderful junk (as well as beautiful nice things), a visit to the “home museum” of this artist is a particularly rich experience. The Kavafy museum in Alexandria is just a silent bore. The Parajanov museum (the contents of his Tbilisi home were moved to the house he was going to move into in Yerevan) is a loud, carnivalesque, intensely involving work. You just can’t understand his films until you witness his art emerging out of his home-bound contact with poetry in its potential state, which is more or less how he saw most things. Another reason I am compelled to pay attention to him and love him is that in certain photos, such as the one above, he looks uncannily like my father.
Here is a sampling of one sequence among the things to be seen in the home collection.