Artavazd Peleshyan – Behind the Legendary filmmaker

One of the most visionary artists to have emerged from the Soviet Union, Artavazd Peleshyan’s near-wordless black-and-white films were way ahead of their time in blending the reality levels of documentary archive and poetic fiction. Their shortness of length and blurring of categories, though, reinforced their status as outliers and unlikely candidates for mainstream popularity. Peleshyan has been described by his contemporary, Georgian-Armenian maverick Sergei Parajanov, as one of cinema’s rare ‘authentic geniuses’. For all that, his name is still rarely heard beyond cinephile circles.

Saturday 4th March will see a double bill of Four Seasons and La Nature by Peleshyan, with a Q&A hosted by Irish director Tadhg O’Sullivan (To The Moon). In Four Seasons (1975), his last collaboration with cameraman Mikhail Vartanov, Peleshyan captures a reclusive peasant community in its unceasing battle with the elements. In spring, they migrate into the mountains with their herds. When summer ends, they harvest the hay—creating a dusty avalanche of bales. In winter, it is the shepherds themselves, hanging on to their sheep, who roll down the mountains in the snow. Accompanied by Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, these highland dwellers perform feats of pure survival. This is humanity, trapped in a brutal but stunningly beautiful existence. To the melodic rhythms of camerawork, montage, and a lyrical score, Peleshyan and Vartanov elevate it into a full-blown symphony—a symphony of being.

The screening will be followed by La Nature (2019), released more than 25 years after his previous film, the then 82-year-old director surprised the world with a new work. The simple title masks a film of great complexity about the magnificence and destructive power of nature. The film is made up of found footage sequences that cast humankind as a puny match for the great forces of nature, such as volcanic eruptions, roiling floods, hurricanes and tornados.

Although much of the footage was plucked from the internet, Peleshyan shaped it in such a way that it merges seamlessly with his own utterly unique style, one that he has been steadily refining throughout his career. In short, the images are black-and-white, free of dialogue, and tend to have a monumental quality. They gain meaning when subjected to Peleshyan’s celebrated “distance montage” technique, with repetition and subtle variation generating the work’s poetic intensity. In La Nature Peleshyan presents us with an utterly

contemporary and urgent film that shakes us from the illusion that humanity can control nature.

La Nature and Seasons will both be followed by a Q&A with Peleshyan, hosted by filmmaker, Tadgh O’Sullivan. This is one opportunity to hear from the legendary filmmaker that is not to be missed! 

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