Seen that!

A film and DVD blog

Powaqqatsi (1988)

without comments

Concept: Koyaanisqatsi 2, showing the rest of the world

The tagline at the end of the trailer for Koyaanisqatsi was 'until now, you've never really seen the world you live in', but that film almost never leaves the USA (some of the stock footage looks like the Soviet army). With a bigger budget, and many more people involved in the production, the follow up visits 'the global south'.

What's good: The title means 'life in transformation' and it is very good at showing the changes in the Third World, and asking – visually – if modernisation is an improvement.

What's not so good: For such a visual film, the vision is sometimes lacking. The opening sequence is in a giant open-air gold mine in Brazil, with tens of thousands of workers in a pit hundreds of metres deep. At no point do we see the full scale of it as the vast majority of shots concentrate on a few individuals who could be anywhere muddy.

To the visual styles of the first are added some out of focus and multiple exposure sections. Some of the latter work (I particularly like the burnt out car being passed by the 'ghosts' of cars that are still alive) but most of it is too abstract for me, in a way that, say, the night shots of car lights of Koyaanisqatsi aren't.

I also wonder, in a way that I do not about Koyaanisqatsi about what the people filmed got out of it. One of the most memorable images – the boy walking along the road being passed by a giant truck – was filmed by asking him to repeat what must have been an unpleasant and unhealthy experience for the cameras. Erm…

Music: There are some very good bits – the three Anthem sections in particular (it's not surprising that this is reprised over the end, used a lot in the trailer, and is the most widely reused piece) – but this is not a soundtrack I have ever wanted to buy.

Miscellany: Despite a nude boy and a child hitting an animal with a stick, this got a U certificate.

Overall: As I said, one of the things this does is confirm how good Koyaanisqatsi was, because it's not as good.

I don't think I am alone in thinking this. I suspect that the vast majority of people who saw the first one will have wanted to see this, but it made barely a fifth of its $2.5m budget in its US release. Clearly, the word of mouth wasn't there this time and it wasn't surprising that it took many years for Reggio to get the budget for the third Qatsi film.

TL;DR It's ok

Film: 3/5
DVD: 4.5/5

The double DVD pack with Koyaanisqatsi – this one has a 20 minute piece with Reggio and Glass talking about making it and the trailers for both films, plus the soundtrack album.

Written by Ian

March 8th, 2012 at 1:14 am

Posted in Cinema,DVDs

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