In his wordless debut film, Mikhail Vartanov presents the ancient and modern art of Armenia through the post-impressionist painter Martiros Saryan’s silent commentary of gestures. Biblical landscapes, the ruins of temples, frescos, cross-stones, contemporary sculptures of Tchakmakchian (Chakmakchyan), the first appearance on film of iconic modernist painter Minas and his paintings, as well as the world famous behind-the-scenes episodes of Sergei Parajanov’s landmark Sayat Nova.
The score of The Color of Armenian Land was composed by Tigran Mansurian, who later also scored Parajanov’s Sayat Nova and several of Vartanov’s other films, such as Autumn Pastoral (1971). It was the portrayal of the dissident artists Sergei Parajanov (imprisoned in 1974) and Minas Avetisyan (assasinated in 1975) that caused The Color of Armenian Land to be shelved while Vartanov was blacklisted. When his artistic freedom was restored 20 years later, he responded with Minas: A Requiem (1989) and Paradjanov: The Last Spring (1990), completing a trilogy.
Some of the sequences of The Color of Armenian Land reappeared in Paradjanov: The Last Spring, but an important part was stolen from the archives – only 1 frame recently surfaced.
The below frame is from the sequence that was not part of the final censored cut of the Color of Armenian Land — when Vartanov wanted to include this footage into Parajanov: The Last Spring he couldn’t find it in the archives. In 1998 a calendar was printed in Armenia where this frame was used and credited to a “staff photographer” while in reality someone cut the original negative of Mikhail Vartanov’s film and enlarged its 35mm frame. In 2014, Vartanov’s image of Parajanov was selected for the offical catalogue by Festival de Cannes.
6 years later, in 2018 — or 49 years after it was created — Vartanov’s The Color of Armenian Land was released by Criterion on Blu-ray with Parajanov’s restored Color of Pomegranates.
This represents the very first commercial/home video release for Vartanov whose films have never been previously issued on VHS/DVD or any other format.
Criterion Collection 2018 Bluray and DVD release of the restored Color of Pomegranates includes Mikhail Vartanov’s rare first film The Color of Armenian Land which you can purchase by clicking the image below.
THE COLOR OF ARMENIAN LAND – CAST and ART DEPARTMENT: