Once there was a Hush Puppy and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub. Seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, this mesmerizing meditation on the meaning of home and family took me someplace I’d never been before. I’ve watched it three times and each time it draws me into its breaking and broken world – a small land mass off the Louisiana shore known as The Bathtub that’s being drowned by the rising ocean.
The lead actors, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Willis as Hush Puppy and Dwight Henry as Wink, her dying alcoholic father, give seamless convincing performances. Due to her astonishing performance, in 2012 Willis became the youngest actor ever nominated for a best actress Oscar. Films rarely glimpse into a child’s world, watching her gather knowledge and mythology, as intensely and sensitively as Beasts of the Southern Wild. Plus it has aurocks! Don’t miss this one.
Filmed in the Soviet Union in 1967/ 68, director Sergei Parajanov tells the life story of 16th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova in a series of surreal tableaux. I was immediately drawn into the dream-like quality and unpredictability of the unorthodox images. There is no camera movement and no dialogue. Nova’s poetry accompanies the images along with wild sounds and music. Bizarre scenes arise and fade, the realm of dreams rules and sometimes the bright glowing edges of dreamless sleep break through the darkness.
I was reminded of Fellini, especially Satyricon (which came out the year after Color of Pomegranates) and Roma; and Jodorowsky, both El Topo and The Holy Mountain (both post-Color). The startling image of the man with the peacock beak in his mouth (above) is but one of dozens of quizzical and enthralling images in The Color of Pomegranates.
Much of the visual content is based on traditional Armenian folklore, design and clothing and stylized to make it feel alien yet comfortable. Horses, books and antlers are prominent motifs. Its 73-minute length makes it just long enough to stay focused on both the style and the story. The actors of all ages are convincing, the subtitles sparse but adequate and the soundtrack wonderfully diverse and curious.
Take a short vacation and watch it free at https://archive.org/details/ColorOfPomegranates-SayatNova1968
The Color of Pomegranates is on archive.org which has hundreds of other feature length films spanning the silent era through to the 21st century, along with shorts and trailers, all available to watch free. Classic films in most genres are just a click away. https://archive.org/details/feature_films