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This movie has been a favorite of mine for a while, and finally I have it on DVD, where the quality sound and picture make it an even better experience. Every time I watch it I bring new thoughts and perspectives so it hits me differently. If you can't stand watching a movie with no dialogue, it may not be your cup of tea. Otherwise, be prepared to immerse yourself in the images and the compelling soundtrack. I don't want to define exactly what it is about as it will be different for everyone, but it certainly will take you out of your normal way of viewing the world for an hour and a half. I can't wait for Naqoyqatsi, a movie made in the same vein by the same people that will be released in October 2002.
I've had a VHS copy of Koyaanisqatsi since 1984, when I bought it sight
unseen based on a review that stated that it's one of the most profound,
beautiful movies ever made.
It is! If you have a problem people who think that conserving nature is important, or with arty films in which nothing happens, then don't bother. Otherwise, sit back with your favorite refreshment and a friend and watch and listen.
Koyaanisqatsi has been OOP for years, even on video, until yesterday when
FINALLY it was released on DVD. After checking four different stores, I
finally found one that bothered to have a copy for sale on the release
so I snapped it up and watched it in the dead of night.
First, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in the print quality of the DVD version - quite a few scenes show evident wear and tear on the print used. I have to keep reminding myself though, that this movie was made TWENTY years ago... the negative and master prints have certainly had quite an adventure during the past 2 decades. (If ever there was a perfect argument for film protection and preservation, Koyaanisqatsi is IT.)
I'm also wondering about the aspect ratio. It seems incorrect at 1.85:1 - I could've sworn I've seen a version that was 2.35:1, but since it's been so long since I've actually seen the film, perhaps I'm mistaken. If however, this is not the full aspect ratio, then that's a ridiculous choice by the DVD makers - I mean, fans of a movie like this are the LAST people on earth who would be "scared off" by wide letterboxing, something the studios still seem to think consumers are terrified of.
Ok, so how about the movie itself? Koyaanisqatsi came out the year I graduated from high school, and it was an extreme influence on me (and others - it's become quite legendary and has been name checked countless times everywhere from MST3K to The Simpsons). But after not seeing it for well over 10 years, how did it affect me last night?
Hmm. Maybe for the very reason it's become such an icon, it was just a bit of a letdown. On a superficial level, I am AMAZED at how much has changed in just 20 years. Many things in the film are downright quaint now - the cars, the hairdos, the fashions, the huge old mainframe computers, Ms Pac-Man, billboard ads for Betamax players! And MAN, Times Square really was totally squalorous, wasn't it!?
On a deeper level, one of the inadvertent profundities of Koyaanisqatsi is that, in watching it now, the relentless march of time is all too apparent. When compared to the mountains of Arizona or the layers of the Grand Canyon, everything we do as a civilization seems thoroughly disposable. 5000 years - big whoop.
One thing that hasn't changed is our relentless consumption of the planet's natural resources, and that's only accelerated since the early 80's. We were all well aware of the risks we were taking with the environment back then and we knew we had some difficult choices to make. The decision of the majority since 1983? Buy a 12 mpg SUV, build a McMansion and participate in adding another billion people to the world's population. Good going.
OK, I'll get off my soapbox and back on the subject at hand :-) Koyaanisqatsi is still quite marvelous to behold - one thing that I've built an appreciation for over the years is how important EDITING is, and Koyaanisqatsi is BRILLIANTLY edited. And last but certainly not least is the absolutely astonishing music by Philip Glass - it can stand alone from the film as a separate work of art. "The Grid" portion of the soundtrack is, in my mind, one of the towering achievements of 20th century music. (I can highly recommend the 1998 recording of the soundtrack which is even better than the version made for the film.)
I saw this movie in my uni days and enjoyed it at lot. So I was excited to
be able to see it again a couple of years ago in a "live" performance at
Sydney Opera House.
The images were projected on a massive screen while the soundtrack was performed live by Phillip Glass and his ensemble.
It was a superb performance and very moving emotionally - even more so than I recalled from seeing the movie. The soundtrack complements the images brilliantly and brings out the anger, sadness, frustration of modern life.
Definitely worth watching.
I first saw this film about 17 years ago. I rented the tape without
anything about it and watched it on a 19" Trinitron. Nonetheless I was
floored by both the images and score (though I'm not a huge Phillip Glass
fan). I rewatched the film 4 or 5 times within a few months (at least one
of those times with the aid of a certain tobacco-like substance -- it was,
after all, that kind of film!). Of course, that was 17 years ago.
I still have a copy of the film on Beta (and a working Betamax), I've not
watched it since.
Now that I have a wide screen Hi-def TV and surround sound system I can hardly wait for the DVD release (9/19/02) though I must admit I wonder how well the film will have held up. As gorgeous as it was to look at and listen to, its message was more than a little heavy handed and a bit trite.
I'll second the "Best Film Ever Made" comments. It's an extraordinary, shattering, mesmerizing, life-changing experience. And maybe all the people who are suggesting it as a kind of personality gauge are correct--I can't conceive of someone being bored, or even worse, offended, by the issues Reggio explores. "Koyaanisqatsi" uses the film medium--itself the result of a mechanized process--to comment on and, really, alter the way we perceive our world. If you call it propoganda, you're missing the point. And you're probably an oil executive, too. I can think of no other excuse to dislike this masterpiece.
Watching Koyaanisqatsi and its powerful images, fused with Phillip Glass's
soundtrack, only made me fantasize how Lynch's DUNE might have looked
those elements. For some strange reason, Koya (for short)
reminds me of Dune (and vice-versa) in that certain vistas as seen in Koya
could have been used by Lynch (real landscapes, for instance, instead of
those dreadful FX he settled for)
Mr. Lynch, think what might have been if you had used Mr. Glass's music and Godfrey Reggio's camerawork.
As for Koyaanisqatsi itself, can't wait for the DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review describes the scenes in the film, some may regard these
descriptions as 'spoilers'.
Possibly the most underrated film of all time. Underrated because it is not at all like most other films. Most films have actors, dialogue, plot, people kissing and/or killing each other, so anyone who is closed-minded enough will probably not like Koyaanisqatsi, as it has none of these.
It is a sequence of images- time-lapse, slow-motion, normal speed, stills, all set to a haunting Philip Glass score. The beginning of the film depicts scenes of great natural beauty and splendour and draws ingenious paralells between the motion of clouds and the motion of water, as well as striking views of Monument Valley, Utah, among others.
The images gradually change in character as we see more and more of man's influence upon the natural environment, particularly how careless and destructive we are.
The final part of the film concentrates on city scenes. Again, time-lapse is cleverly used to illustrate the movement of people, one is reminded of the movement of clouds and water at the start of the film, but people appear to move in a more futile and purposeless way. The grace and beauty of the water and clouds is completely lacking here.
Individual people are shown in slow motion going about their lives. Those lives are made to appear worthless and in one case extremely moving, as a vagrant shuffles down the street inspecting his empty pockets. He appears to look into the camera (did he know it was there?) and the expression on his face is something I will never forget.
The final scene indicates the failure of man's technology as the music reverts back to the opening theme. I won't spoil this scene as it makes a wonderfully powerful climax that words cannot convey.
This IS the best film ever and it is worth every second. It conveys a powerful and somewhat depressing message that you won't be able to ignore.
I saw this film many years ago (against what I thought was my better
judgment) on the recommendation of some 'arty/druggie' friends. Nothing
could have prepared me for the experience of seeing this on a huge screen
(incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see this on a decent sized
cinema screen, cancel anything else to do it, even your own funeral!).
Words cannot describe the powerful imagery of the pictures on the screen
the perfectly matched score. An undeniable masterpiece of monumental
proportions, this has affected me more than any other film, piece of music
or other art I have ever experienced. I sat there transfixed, never took
eyes off the screen and 'forgot' I was in the cinema, never saying a word
my friends around me- the same goes for all the other people there. At the
end of the film, everyone sat there silent, in an almost trance like state,
whilst the credits ran up. I have never matched that cinematic experience
to this day, and doubt that I will again.
I got it on video years ago, and whilst I've recently got a 52" TV and can
now get something of the experience back, the pan and scan and poor quality
sound track does a great dis-service to this film.
HOWEVER- it seems the studio have finally sorted out the legal wrangles that have prevented it up to now, and are preparing to release this on DVD in September this year- not before time, this is without doubt (along with 2001 & T2) the reason DVD's were invented- but be warned, its only really worth seeing at home in widescreen on a very large TV, with the volume turned up to neighbour(hood) annoying levels.
Well, enough hyperbole, just go an see it/get it, or you've missed out on one of life's most intense experiences.
This is a true masterpiece. I had not seen Koyaanisqatsi in years, but I
still remembered it as an amazing piece of cinema.
Recently I watched it again, and I was stunned by the pictures and the wonderful music by Philip Glass.
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