Seen that!

A film and DVD blog

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

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Concept: "No actors, no dialogue, no characters, no story, and a title that most people can't pronounce."

Director Godfrey Reggio and cinematographer Ron Fricke had some $40,000 left over from a media campaign. They decided to make a film purely of visual images.

What's good: The visuals. A mix of slow motion, real time and time lapse shots, some by Fricke, some by others, and some stock footage.

The editing. I don't want to think about how difficult it was to come to a decision about how to edit this. It took years.

The music. See below.

Let's say it again: the visuals, the editing, the music.

What's not so good: Not all of the sequences are equally interesting, but we'd probably disagree as to which were the best.

Music: One of Philip Glass's finest works, and one of the greatest film soundtracks ever.

Miscellany: Both the visuals and music have been endlessly sampled and referenced. One usage of the former not mentioned on IMDb or Wikipedia was by a 1980s 'youth recruitment' video by the UK's SDP political party – various young members including Shami Chakrabarti (hooray!) and, from memory, Danny Finkelstein (boo!) as talking heads with the night traffic shots as a background.

At one point, the VHS release was worth a significant sum, because rights issues were making a commercial DVD release impossible. Although I found a copy in a charity shop for about 50p, I missed the boat in selling it for a hundred times that…

Overall: A masterpiece.

It looks simple to do, but just how difficult it is was shown by the follow-up, Powaqqatsi, which isn't as good.

Watching it now is slightly odd because of what's happened in the world since: the scenes of buildings being demolished remind me of the World Trade Centre collapse, and the scene of the early NASA rocket exploding is reminiscent of the Columbia disaster.

TL;DR Watch it, listen to it

Film: 5/5
DVD: 4.5/5

The double DVD pack with Powaqqatsi, the original release of the soundtrack (edited to 46 minutes), the full soundtrack, and Glass's rerecording of his bits (plus the DVD audio version):

Written by Ian

March 7th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Cinema,DVDs

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