The films of Armenian director Artavazd Peleshian are almost impossible to describe, except (inadequately) as non-narrative short subjects, a blanket category which says nothing about the visceral impact of both pieces in the program I attended, during the 1987 San Francisco International Film Festival (where 'In the Beginning' screened alongside Peleshian's 'The Four Seasons'). His work had already been compared to Dziga Vertov, Bruce Connor, and the young Werner Herzog, but on the evidence of only these two brief excerpts he emerges as a unique, exciting discovery in his own right.
'In The Beginning' is a quick, kinetic flow of brilliantly edited found footage: crowds running; armies colliding; masses in motion, repeated, reversed, and freeze-framed in dizzy choreographed rhythms. 'The Four Seasons', equally spectacular, presents a series of hypnotic and powerful images from his native country: of shepherds and their flocks fording a torrential mountain river, and farmers grappling with what look like huge haystacks on a near-vertical mountainside.
In each film the emphasis is more on the poetry of the montage itself rather than on any premeditated message, making them easy on the eyes as well as fascinating to ponder.
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