Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Movie Review: Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

While I never got to see this film when it was in the theatres, Koyaanisqatsi has become one of my favorite movies. 

The film has no narrative, other than any the viewer cares to imagine it has. There's no real darkness, say  like in a sublime movie like Eraserhead; this is just movie just shows life and the world the way it is. Any story, any theme you think you see ... well, that's you. 

The film's subtitle is "Life Out of Balance", which is ostensibly what the word "koyaanisqatsi" means in the Hopi language. The movie begins with a simple cave drawing, and switches to a rocket launch. After that, we have numerous picturesque sequences of landscapes, the sea, clouds, and the like, followed soon by the inclusion of humanity and it's technology, in the form of large trucks, power plants, and cities. After that, the films goes through the myriad stages of life in modern society: Movement of vehicles and people, people at work, people enjoying a break, industry and stores, night life, the dawning of a new day...the comparison between modern society and a machine can clearly inferred by a number of contrasting images. The film processes through all these vistas, returning to a failed rocket launch, and the cave drawing from the start. 

A clip from Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Godfrey Reggio was the director of this film, which took nearly ten years to finish, given the rather Lynchian approach taken to filming and financing. There was no real script and while some stock footage was used, most of the movie was filmed firsthand by Reggio's cinematography Ron Fricke.

The panoramas and time-lapse cinematography of this movie is at times breath-taking, even now in these days of CGI masterworks. The film is a precursor of a lot of programs on basic cable, like How It's Made and many Discovery Channel documentaries. I bet a lot of people have seen parts of this movie and not realized that they come from a greater whole; I know the Hostess Twinkie packaging line segment came on the disc that had my very first video driver on it, way back in the early nineties. The various vistas can also be disturbing: Hordes of empty blocks of apartments ready to be demolished, a street that, until you see the fire engine, looks to be in a third world country instead of New York, among others.

Some Law Vegas workers.
It is truly fascinating to watch the flow of people as they move in the city-segments; even with these pictures, it's still almost hard to get your head around the number of people involved in the day-to-day activities of a modern city ... the constant line of people on the streets, on the escalators and in the stores.

I'm sure this movie is a hit-or-miss for a lot of folks. Some will see it as pretentious, some will see it as a lot of nothing, and of course some will see it as a masterpiece. I'm of the latter category. Imagine an hour-and-a-half travelogue that makes you think. That's the lowest common denominator explanation of Koyaanisqatsi that I can come up with. The film is really a lot more than that, but any movie that actually makes an audience think rather than just bask in visuals is a good thing.


By Rich Meyer

And away we go with another e-book of 500 easily used questions and answers about a variety of trivial topics. This quiz book features questions on cult films, the radio program "Lum and Abner," the comic book super-hero team the Avengers, advertising slogans, Bugs Bunny, fictional detectives, big bands, board games, cult movies, and the TV show "The Twilight Zone." Family-friendly fun for everyone!

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