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Naqoyqatsi

Naqoyqatsi: Life as War is the last of the trilogy of Qatsi movies. They took 25 years to make and I have watched all 3 in 3 days. Like the other two, this movie utilise the superb musical skills of Philip Glass but now also has a unique key role for cello soloist Yo-Yo Ma. The music is, if anything, rather different from the film. The title means ‘war as a way of life’ or ‘civilised violence’. The movie, unlike the first two of the trilogy, is sternly technological and experimental – the editor and visual designer – Jon Kane – obviously played a very significant role. There is beauty but it is abstract, symbolic beauty and the emphasis is on technology. There is an anti-technology message here that is being conveyed using high technology – as Reggio puts it, ‘no immaculate conceptions’.

The locations here are not developed countries (as in Koyaanisqatsi) or those of the Third World (as in Powaqqatsi) – indeed the locations here are images of a globalised world. It is the music that softens the whole experience and prevents the film from becoming overly experimental and excessively demanding. To me it also made the experience primarily aesthetic rather than didactic. The collages of images to me is computer art.

The attractive feature of all these movies is the way music and images are blended. It is abstract and there is no dialogue but the movie still flows – there is no feeling of staccato experimentation. Reggio the director collected images, Glass designed music, Kane edited and unified. The three participants explain how they worked together successfully – in the case of Glass and Reggio the collaboration lasted the full 25 years.

I can’t recommend these 3 films enough. I’ll certainly watch them again and when I can’t watch listen to Phillip Glass’s music. One thing I want to do is follow up on the cinematography of Ron Fricke who worked on Koyaanisqatsi. Reggio describes him as a genius and I’ll take his word for it. Fricke worked on a number of films for IMAX including Chronos (as director, cinematographer, editor and co-producer), Sacred Site (director, cinematographer, editor, producer) and most recently Baraka (director, cinematographer, co-editor and co-producer). He is about to release Samsara.

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