Samuel Khachikian. He, who gave structure

English Daily #1
Many are amazed when they see pictures of Iran before 1979. Colorful women in miniskirts and knee-high boots walking along the luminous streets of Tehran, full of expensive cars and stores. The same goes for Iranian cinema. If nowadays the 10th muse in the country is associated with figures like Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi and others, who started out in the 70’s and 80’s, then in the 50s and 60’s Iranian-Armenian director Samuel Khachikian (1923-2001) was the absolute king of the silver screen.

He wasn’t the first, nor was he the last member of the Armenian community of Iran to have a significant impact on Iranian cinema. In fact, the very first Iranian feature-length film Abi and Rabi (1930) was made by Ovanes Ohanian, a fascinating character in his own right. However, Khachikian’s fame and influence in the 60s were definitely unparalleled. From 1953 to his death in 2001 he made more than three dozen films, most of them crowd-pleasers — thrillers and crime dramas, inspired by the American noir genre of the 40s/50s. After the 1979 revolution, his Westernized style naturally was not welcomed anymore, and even though after an initial ban Khachikian continued working until the day he died, his fame and skill never quite recovered.

To a modern eye some of Khachikian’s work might seem pulpy and outdated, however it is important to understand the context of when and how they were made. Khachikian was a true master of his craft, constructing elaborate mise-en-scènes and camera movements at a time and a place when all that was not paid much attention to. As such, he basically gave a sort of structure to then mostly structureless Iranian cinema.

In honor of Samuel Khachikian’s 100th anniversary, his film Horror will be screened on July 11 at 20:30 at the Malyan Theatre with English subtitles only.

Artur Vardikyan