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Review

A couple of weeks ago something spurred me to finally pick up the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi. I've had the Phillip Glass soundtrack for years, but had never seen the film he created the music for.

Koyaanisqatsi is a neologism in the Hopi language meaning Life out of balance. It's described as a documentary -- probably because every other category fit even less well than documentary. Run time is 90 min. plus. It leverages both time-dilation and time-compression photography to paint a brilliant picture of the rhythms of nature and those of man. Deeply engaging and very well done. Your local library probably has a copy. Definitely worth watching.

Then there are it's two younger brothers, both of which I picked up on the strength of Koyannisqatsi. Powaqqatsi (Life in Transformation) and Naqoyqatsi (Life as War).

Powaqqatsi followed Koyaanisqatsi in 1988. In all the ways that Koyaanisqatsi opens your field of view, Powaqqatsi closes it down. Director Godfrey Reggio let slip his neutral editorial tone and started doing more telling than showing. Koyaanisqatsi shows you the world in ways you cannot see it (by speeding things up or slowing them down). You are left to decide for your self whether what you see is good or bad. Powaqqatsi, through its unrelenting tight-focus portrayal of small knots of humans and it's carefully selected scenes, starts to feel downright preachy by the sixty minute mark.

Naqoyqatsi (2002) is about as far as you can get from Koyaanisqatsi. Instead of using technique to reveal the world, Reggio buries the world under a continuous barrage of video effects (he seems especially fond of negative color and washing the color out of parts of an image). Inter-cut are wholly CGI sections and a lot of captured TV. Its message -- that we are bad, violent people, is unrelenting. By the middle of the movie I actually said aloud "bored now." I watched it all the way through because I'm stubborn, or something.

Director Reggio seems to have succumbed to that ill that grips many people on the extremes of the political spectrum -- the belief that the rest of us are too stupid to get the point, and that we must be hit over the head with it continuously. You can see it a little bit in Powaqqatsi, but fourteen years later in Naqoyqatsi, he's got it bad. Alas, like the Highlander films there should have only been one.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
0ccam
Aug. 16th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
Love Koyaanisqatsi. Saw it first on PBS. Then got the LaserDisc. The soundtrack made me a Glass fan, I have a number of his CDs. More recently a friend gave me the DVD. Then I saw the other two on special in a bundle, and bought two bundles and gave one to my friend.

Maybe I should actually OPEN them and watch/listen to them. And see if I agree with you.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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