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Outtakes: Artavazd Peleshian
The Hindu, India Sept 28 2014
by Srikanth Srinivasan
WHO is he?
Armenian film theorist and independent filmmaker who made close to 10 short documentary films between the late sixties and mid-nineties. Peleshian studied film at the prestigious VGIK in Moscow and the student films he made at the institute already bear significant traces of his mature work.
WHAT are his films about?
Although there are hints that Peleshian seems to be commenting on the tragic historical and natural calamities that have plagued Armenia, the director denies it, instead attributing to his films a universal validity. These de-contextualised films do indeed throw light on the plight of entire humanity, poeticising its ability to pick itself up and go on with life. Pain and ecstasy, suffering and resilience, cynicism and optimism and life and death are binaries that abound in these works, as do images of mass movements, imprisonments, struggle and survival.
Peleshian's films are characterised by a highly stylised editing style, which he calls Distance Montage, wherein the global rhythm of the film and the circularity of structure become the key elements instead of the shot-to-shot dialectic that was propounded by the early pioneers of the Russian montage. These films contain no specific characters (the entirety of humanity is the subject) and the soundtracks are a mixture of conventional scores and pre-existing sounds organised into a dense, experimental soundscape. They contain no dialogue, typically possess a symmetric structure and employ varied frame rates that either slow down or speed up action.
WHY is he of interest?
Peleshian's work straddles the realms of filmic essays and filmic poetry. Like, Godard, he uses existing images and footage, re-deploying them a number of times in various diverse contexts and yet retaining their emotional and intellectual potency. His films are testimony to the universality of the cinematic medium in the way they take a detached perspective from immediate events to reflect on larger, existential behaviour of his human subjects.
WHERE to discover him?
The Seasons (1975) is set in the Armenian countryside and depicts images from the daily life of peasants, their ceremonies and their games. Emphasising the cycle of seasons as well that of life, the 25-minute work is a paean to man's complicated and ironic relationship with nature, in which nature becomes the force that both structures quotidian life and disrupts it; both the life-giver and the grim reaper.
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