Honored Artist of Armenia, film critic Suren Hasmikyan is usually reluctant to give interviews. He is rarely seen at celebrations and events. We, journalists, have not seen him as a speaker at press clubs but he had surprisingly accepted the invitation of “Azdak”.It was more surprising that the film critic was willing to speak, analyze and answer the questions. The conversation turned out to be quite inclusive and comprehensive with the scope of topics ranging from geopolitical situation of our country and the world to Hollywood and the Stalinist times. Certainly the major subject was the cinema with its past, present and future.
The 20th century was the century of cinema
Cinema and the art of cinema are two completely different things. Let’s talk about cinema. It was the language of the 20th century. It perpetuated and reproduced our changing reality through the documentary. Documentary is the essence of cinema. Cinema continued to exist due to the business, because if there is no money, there is no cinema. The life and the future of cinema is ensured by film markets. That is why Hollywood still retains its power and reputation. The glorious moment of Hollywood was 1930s when Roosevelt used its assistance to carry out revolution in the US. At that time Hollywood was propagating pragmatism, which stated that if people believed in themselves they could get everything. This was the milestone of the USA which was a country of dreams for many people.
Hollywood is in danger, so are people
There is no cinema without cameramen: this was well known before. But now there is everything, only a cameraman is missing. Cinema cannot die, it will never die, but an image can die. It has already lost its value. Hollywood also lacks images. An image has been replaced by latest techniques that deceive people. You cannot understand whether the image that you are watching has been created by the cameraman or the technique. That is the reason why cinema has become an illusion. I remember Aghasi Ayvazyan telling the following 30 years ago: “I wonder if there will come time when you go out to the street and shoot whatever you want.” The time of his dreams have come: everyone is making films but where is the image caught by them? Where is the human being and who is interested in a person with his real feelings and emotions?
The Armenian cinema was created due to USSR
In 1992 I wrote my first book. I was consistently and thoroughly studying my book to make sure everything was all right. The following line caught my attention: “The Armenian cinema was created due to USSR.” I considered removing it but then I thought why I should do that: I had written the truth in spite of the fact that many people might not like that idea amid the struggle for independence of 1990s.
During the Soviet period the government made each country shoot its own films. And that films were even screened in Siberia. The Armenian films were also shown in all the Soviet countries and each of that films was presented to the society. This is the most important thing. A movie must have audience otherwise it becomes useless.
The concept of a copyright film is wrong
What is the meaning of a copyright film? That concept is wrong, it does not exist. Even Chaplin has no right to state that he has made a copyright film. That is a wrong concept which, you don’t know why, has become a term and is constantly used. You can come across directors saying that they have shot a copyright film. When you watch it you see that it is trash. 90 percent of that films are not worth watching. If you have created a copyright film what can be said about Parajanov or Felini? For example, Vigen Chaldranyan’s first film “The Voice in the Wilderness” (Armenan Dzayn barbaro) is relatively a good film. But then he decided to turn to copyright films and shot the films “Symphony of Silence” and “Maestro”.
100 films are shot in our country annually, who watches that films?
If during the Soviet period I was asked whether there was an Armenian film that I hadn’t watched I would give a negative answer stating that I had watched all of them. But now when I am asked the same question I answer that I have watched almost none of the new films. Certainly there are some films that I have watched. I don’t want to mention names but there are both good and bad films among them. There are films that weren’t appreciated properly, like Dmitri Kesayants’s film “Avdo’s Motorcar”.
The most brilliant film that I have watched recently was Kusturica’sfilm “Underground”. I was also greatly touched by Haneke’s film “Amour”.
Cinema can be saved if returned to neorealism
In 1992 when liberalism invaded our lives, I wrote an article in two languages entitled “I am conservative”. Being liberal I announced that I was conservative in the field of cinema.
Cinema should return to reality. We are done with the footages made by technologies. I show the Peleshyan’s film to my students but I see that they are using their computers instead of watching them. I tell them that the things that they are engaged with have been created by Peleshyan. He has struggled for years in order to connect the footages to create this brilliant films. And now the results of his years of struggle are achieved in a second just by clicking a button of a computer. But it isn’t a movie. It has no soul present in Peleshyan’s films.”
“Hayfilm” shouldn’t have been privatized
What is the future of the Armenian and world cinema? The technique absorbs everything, including cinema. It is quite clear that cinemas are on the way of elimination. What it going to happen with “Hayfilm” depends on the law on cinema and on the decision to eliminate the right of ownership for “Hayfilm”. We shouldn’t have allowed it to be privatized. It was a big mistake. The fact that Armenia has joined Eurimages has risen some hope. I believe that the cooperation with that organization of the European Council will greatly contribute to the activities of our National Cinema Center and to the film production in general.
Now I only rely on books, nothing else. I have almost 1000 books in my house. Unfortunately I have only read half of them and I don’t know whether I will manage to read the next half.
Prepared by Naira Paytyan