MIFF 2011 Film Review: Artavazd Pelechian Shorts: WE, THE SEASONS, OUR CENTURY

26 Jul

The Seasons

By Christopher Mildren

A late push on MIFF’s newsfeeds meant that the screening of three of obscure Armenian director Artavazd Pelechian’s short documentary films received a surprisingly well-attended screening on the first day of the festival.

His distinctive style of film essay is marked by a fluid poetry of documentary images, often manipulated in surprising ways, such as reversing film in an anti-realist loop. Of the three films, We (1969) and The Seasons (1972) are well worth seeking out. The first depicts aspects of Armenian rituals of death, social connection and urban routines with an eye for making the movements of crowds into abstract textures of pattern. Combined with a striking musical score made up of a patchwork of orchestral moments, radical electronics and frankly catchy beats, the always inventively shot sequences unfold with a rightness not bound by logic.

The second film had some truly remarkable insights into the harsh trials the mountainous terrain puts rural Armenians through, mostly involving either being chased down a hill by huge bales of hay or having to transport sheep by sliding with them down uncomfortable looking scree in hair-raising descents.

Longer and far less successful was the space-age collage Our Century (1982), a laborious and bafflingly repetitive compendium of Soviet rocket launches intercut with ironic and often very familiar stock clips of crashes and disasters of all forms of transport, from the Hindenburg to waterskiing accidents. While the unsubtle message of the folly of technological adventure and its inherent machismo driven risks was worthwhile, the duration was not.

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