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The lights went down in the movie theater, and I sank down in my seat
anxious to give my complete and undivided attention over to the visual
hypnotist, who twice previous has put me under and filled me with moving,
profound visuals and awe-inspiring landscapes. My expectations were high,
and they had every right to be, considering past trips our director has
taken me on before. Philip Glass's music began - instantly recognizable.
Coupled with the first few visuals - classic Reggio. Everything felt
familiar, and I thought, once more here I am in for a real visual ride.
Something novel, something adventurous, an evolution and a step up from
where we had last left the "qatsi" series.
Yes, I knew beforehand going in to the film the overall colour and tone that a film on "war as a way of life" would and should have. Lots of greys and other dreary hues. Indeed, show me one frame in this 90-minute film with some colour in it. Yet, it is not the bleakness of the film's visual shade that had me consistently throughout the film slipping in and out of interest. My problem was with the irrelevancy of numerous images to the theme of what the translation of "Naqoyqatsi" is all about.
Rarely are we presented with any images pertaining to anything remotely concerned with warfare and the causes and effects of such. Brief, hazy shots near the end of the film arrive far too late for the viewer to want to consider and reflect upon these. Up till then, we are bombarded with an overwhelming array of visual distractions that either work to divert or numb our senses to the point of yawning indifference - that when the film finally arrives at its point, its promoted subject, that of "war as a way of life," the string of shots showing mushroom clouds, marching troops, and human suffering strangely seem tacked on as if they do not appear logically from their preceding images.
And herein lies the one major flaw of this film. There is no weaving thread connecting the shots smoothly together. It plays like a confusing collage of quickly cut montages scrambled up like a jigsaw puzzle that we the viewer are required to try and make sense of. Whereas "Koyaanisqatsi" consisted of recognizable logic from one image to the next, an arc if you will, where we are able to distinguish a beginning with an end (the cause and the effect), here we can define no order in the direction from image-to-image, we search for meaning in the many diversions and abstractions that are presented to us, and neither have the time nor the patience to find any - for swiftly the images roll by, a spate of such that overwhelms our minds to the point where often we find ourselves mentally tiring out, unable to keep up with the alarming pace of interconnecting/overlapping grainy and muddled visuals. (Some shots are so dark and cloudy I oftentimes found myself not even knowing what I was looking at.) Because the film is so neurotic in its imagery and so fuzzy to look at periodically throughout, we end up losing interest and caring about the film around the first 30 minutes in, that by the time Reggio delivers his anticipated visual payoffs, yes our attention is whisked back in, but are we at this point able to FEEL anything for what we are seeing?
The first two films of this trilogy were masterpieces, the two separate and unique from each other in both music and atmosphere, with a director whose passion for his project truly manifested itself on screen in the many natural wonders and exotic settings he captured. Here, Reggio takes the easy way out, in ironically using a slew of computer-generated visual effects to achieve a handful of dazzling creations (not to be missed) that previously he physically would have sought out Creation itself for. Perhaps he's getting tired, for I felt his heart just wasn't in this film like it was the previous two chapters. Perhaps this installment was brought about into existence only out of a sense of duty - an obligation in completing a pre-ordained trilogy.
In "Powaqqatsi" he let his camera pause and study - scenery, faces, human actions - which allowed us the time to gaze, ponder and reflect. We observed and we contemplated. There is no opportunity for that here. The countless shots (450 of them) rush along and bury our concentration under its suffocating heap.
This commentary compared to the first two, falls surprisingly flat. All the abstractions and digital code become tedious and tiresome after a while. The whole point of such flashy trickery ought to be to stir the audience to feeling, not stultify them and make them indifferent to the images they see.
Like witnessing a dream where the images just do not logically connect and make sense, I was only pleased to awaken from this film with an anxious awaiting to do so all throughout the confusion. To stand up, stretch, and step back into a universe where the 6 pm news possesses more of the "Naqoyqatsi" theme than this film does. The visuals here do not correlate with each other; there's murkiness, there's quirky doctoring of images, there's distortion. It all comes down to chaos, and perhaps this is to be taken as a metaphor in defining our times. In which case, in rating this film I could well in fact be rating the world we live in. Perhaps then, Reggio's final installment achieves its aim afterall - in the aggressive use of a technologically-armed visual attack that we are only too anxious to want to question in the end.
Koyaanisqatsi Rating Out Of Ten : 10.
Powaqqatisi Rating Out Of Ten : 9.
Naqoyqatsi Rating Out Of Ten : 5.
In the hustle and bustle of a chaotic world, we often don't take the time to
stop and really look at all the beautiful things that tend to pass us by
unnoticed. It is Godfrey Reggio's aim in `Naqoyqatsi' as it was in his
previous `Koyaanisqatsi' and `Powaqqatsi' - to focus our attention on all
the artistry inherent in the shapes, forms and patterns that make up our
universe. His film is a succession of images, some of them derived from
nature (clouds, ocean waves), others from Man (buildings and bridges), and
others from computer-generated fantasy. These he filters through his
observant camera eye, state-of-the-art processing and ingenious editing to
create a cinematic tone poem. The element that most separates `Naqoyqatsi'
from Reggio's earlier works is the much heavier reliance on camera trickery
and CGI effects here. For the most part, Reggio has moved away from nature
as his subject and towards the cyber realities of the current age. Thus,
the altered emphasis in form seems not merely appropriate but thematically
valid as well, as Reggio examines a world in which nature has been largely
eclipsed by computer technology.
At the end of the film we are told that `Naqoyqatsi' is a Hopi word meaning, essentially, `war' and `violence.' I'm not sure, though, that Reggio has really earned that title with his film. True, he does include a few shots of mushroom clouds, of street riots, of violent video games, but they hardly account for the majority of the images we see. Perhaps it is the clash between nature and technology that he is referring to here, but the title at least as defined at the end - still seems to fall a bit short of the mark.
Still, Reggio is often able to find poetry in even the most disturbing of images. For instance, there's an amazing shot of a trio of crash test dummies performing a macabre, yet strangely beautiful slow motion `dance' in a simulated airplane crash. It is but one of the many unforgettable images in the film.
Enhanced by the haunting music of Philip Glass, `Naqoyqatsi' offers a dazzling kaleidoscopic view of the world, a visual tour de force for the aesthetically inclined.
This is a failure so complete as to make me angry.
All of the subtlety and structure of Reggio's early films is gone, leaving nothing but a hash of digitally smeared images whose sole purpose seems to be Whining About Bad Things Humans Do. Just how do Star Trek-like wormhole graphics, slo-mo colorized seascapes, mutiplicities of obviously fake computer icons, and shots of athletic competition that, incidentally, show that no one has ever been able to top (or even match) Leni Riefenstahl for filming bodies in motion, edited together with an overlay of video colorization that a 1980s "Dr. Who" producer would have rejected as "too cheesy," add up to a polemic against "civilized violence"? There is no intellectual, emotional, or visceral connection between these images as assembled and mutated by Reggio and way too many digital effects artistes, and the cautionary tale I assume he wanted to produce. With all of the "dramaturgical consultants" involved, no one seems to have pulled his head out the his own feeling of Saying Something Important and considered that they might all be failing to say something new.
Only people who watch too much television could make such a film and believe that it's meaningful; this is kindergarten Stan Brakhage, and ultimately gutless in its relentless obviousness. The only irony and tension evident here (unlike in "Koyaanisqatsi" where the relentless beauty and strangeness of time-altered ordinary images forced you to consider their meaning) was when the DVD I was watching jammed and skipped. This is MTV for the Noam Chomsky crowd, based on reflex rather than reflection and signifying nothing. Two stars for the music, which is in Glass's best pomo-Cesar Franck style and features some passionate cello from Yo-Yo Ma. (I hope for his sake that he didn't have to record his parts to a playback of the film; there are some things you shouldn't have to do even for a paycheck.)
After reading different comments about this movie, I've decided to see
it, and I'm really surprised because what I have found has little to do
with what I thought it was.
Naqoyqatsi is about the loss of our natural perception of reality and its substitute: the image itself as a product of technology, the image as a weapon in a globalized war. And here comes the apparent incoherence, because the film is a parade of these images, a product of the same technological violence it is reflecting and criticizing. That's not hypocrisy; the contradiction is part of the film itself.
Although I do not completely support Reggio's point of view, I admire the way he expresses it through his films without impositions of any kind, so that the viewer can find his own perspective. While watching Naqoyqatsi, I was asking for the "original" pictures that were below those distortions and filters, but soon I realized the real world wasn't there. It was like "OK, so that's all... Well, let's see it".
A few words about the inevitable comparison with it's predecessors: if you are looking for something like Koyaanisqatsi, go see Koyaanisqatsi again. Naqoyqatsi is a different film. It does well as the third part of the Qatsi Trilogy, but like the other two, has its own "personality". And I think it's a great film. Maybe not a masterpiece like Koyaanisqatsi, but a great film.
What a let down. Koyaanisqatsi was brilliant, Powaqatsi was quite good,
Naqoyqatsi is the same thing all over again, without the beauty and
It's not that I don't sympathise with the meaning behind the film, but bombarding me with images of dollar signs and corporate logos is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The majority of those who view this movie do not need to be chaperoned around these issues.
The film feels structureless and jumps back and forth from one point to the next and then back again. I suppose you could argue that this reflects the chaotic nature of the films subject matter, but to me, that's just making excuses for a poorly conceived narrative.
The computer graphics don't work well at all. They often feel like an excuse to show of a few fancy special effects and already look dated (Max Headroom came to mind on several oc...oc...oc...occasions.). They just don't have the beauty of a 'real' image.
To add insult to injury, the film has been stretched out from a 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 so all of the people appear distorted. This is because the stock footage used was 4:3 and they couldn't be bothered editing it to fit into a widescreen presentation. They just stretched the lot, and when you watch the DVD it is very noticeable. It's claimed that this was a deliberate move and not a decision based on technical difficulties, but I'm not sure.
Overall - I'd say watch koyaanisqatsi again - it's the only film out of the three worth repeated viewings.
I read the other review here before seeing the movie and desperately
it was wrong - it wasn't. Koyaanisqatsi was, and still is, a great
full of sweeping images and magnificent scope, the movie certainly had an
eloquent statement to make. I was hoping for something similar in the
This was an exercise in tedium. It seemed as though the filmmakers raided the Time-Life library of iconic 20th century images and fed them through a special effects filter. It's as if they felt that what worked in Koyaanisqatsi, would work here -- extreme closeup, slow-motion etc. But the images here had nothing to say.
There was no emotion. Just wall-to-wall shots of everything from dollar signs, 0's and 1's, faces, bodies, computer chips, JFK, Martin Luther King, Bin Laden, buildings ripped by tornados... you get the picture. To make matters worse, everything was put through amateurish f/x-- mosaic, grain, vortex, inverted.
While it may have been a technical marvel, the end result felt empty and labored. Footage near the end consisted of juxtaposing images of real global street violence with video game violence -- but so what? Nothing new was said here. A real shame to end this way...
first off i consider koya one of my top movies and think highly of powa
as well. this is not either of those movies. it has been made in a
different time .
because my expectations were so entrenched i had to stop this movie halfway thru thinking it was crap and take a break.
then i came back to it and really enjoyed the last half. not to say this movie is as well crafted as koyaniqaatsi because it isn't.
but it is very different, the linear sense of koya is gone replaced with chaotic and seemingly unrelated images thrown together into a relentless barrage. At first i struggled to find the underlying theme/string that connected it all as such was in koyanisqaatsi but there was none and i became disappointed. but perhaps the movie is more reflective of the chaotic barrage of information we live in. the unending information and violence overload.
in koyanisqatsi i felt hope perhaps in this nothing but the maddening roar of modern day society tearing itself apart.
its been twenty odd years since koyanisqaatsi and everything portrayed in that movie has only become more intense, more fractured. perhaps this movie lacks the simple sublimeness of the first because reggio not longer sees the world as such. the madness of modern man is much more evident in this. the oversaturation in the movie reflecting the over saturation the skewed perspective our world has.
this movie is certainly not as easy to digest as reggio's other works and i would like to return to it as some point. To those who enjoyed the first two i would say watch this but leave your preconceived notions and expectations behind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a gigantic fan of both Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, but this movie is
just not good. The reviewer below is entirely correct that the stunning
imagery of the Detroit station is the first and last memorable scene in the
film. I really, really wish I had left after that, instead of continuing to
hold out hope throughout the film. Maybe my expectations were too high, but
I felt let down.
The score is almost completely a rehash of the previous two - not necessarily a bad thing if you're a fan, but there's only one piece that stood out to me as being fresh. It was good enough, though, that I'll still probably check out the soundtrack.
But just keep this in mind if you see this film: if you come to realize at any point that you're not enjoying it, go ahead and split - you won't miss a thing, because it won't get any better.
I'll even give the executive summary here (warning! spoilers!): lots of shots of athletes that look almost good enough for a Nike commercial, shots of smiling people, inexplicably dull frontal head shots of famous people's wax dummies (WTF were they thinking here?!?), some giggling babies (cuuuuute), some "bitchin'" Photoshop effects, some imagery that's meant to suggest a comparison between the flows of water, information, money and people (I think)... and then a bunch of quick unrelated scenes of mass violence... and then a bunch of stock space footage.
I could remake this movie in 10 seconds. Here's my pitch:
2 seconds of a happy daddy with a shaved head and lycra biking shorts playing with a toddler playing with a kitten playing with string; 5 seconds of that scene in "Network" where the guy talks about messing with the "elemental forces of nature" and how "money flows in, money flows out;" 1 second of Reginald Denny getting brained with a brick, and then 3 seconds of Alan Bean bouncing around on the moon.
There you go - that's 88 minutes and 50 seconds of your life I just saved. Of course, I'd get a copy of After Effects and apply a filter or two, so it wouldn't look as blatantly stock as it is. If Steven Soderbergh's reading this, hey, I won't even need much money for this project...
If you insist upon watching a movie about "Life as War," I suggest "Bowling for Columbine" instead. It may not have the pseudo-intellectual veneer so fashionable among the black turtleneck crowd, but at least it's funny.
Having seen Koyanisqatsi and Baraka I was very much looking forward to
viewing this movie to see how Godfrey Reggio's view of the world has
and what nuggets of visual wisdom he would impart to me this time around.
Needless to say (if you read the summary) I was quite disappointed in the
way Mr. Reggio presented his latest film.
If one is seeing this film then one is more than likely already familiar with, and highly sensitive to, the problems that are facing the Earth today. Naqoyqatsi seems to delight in pummeling the viewer with shot after out of focused, highly contrasted, digitally altered shot of the continued plagues of the world.
Yes Mr. Reggio, we know that war is bad, that ideological conformity is limiting, that destruction of the environment threatens our future. The task now at hand is not to document the continuation of these negative historical trends but to show those of us interested how we can begin to live our lives differently to alter the course of history.
After walking out of the movie I felt I had just left an extended 90 minute MTV Yo Yo Ma music video. And not a good MTV video but one of those I-can't-concentrate-for-more-than-2-seconds music videos. Disjointed, depressing, confusing and incoherent are the words I would use to best describe this movie. Skip it.
The director Godfrey Reggio must be a very charming and persuasive man for this dreadfully botched project to have seen the light of day. Reggio's message, so powerful and resonant in his previous two Qatsi films, is hopelessly jumbled here. Athletes, equations, oceans, keypads, laughing heads, etc, mingle without purpose. The parade of banal imagery is mostly generic stock from Getty Images et al, and the heavy-handed digital manipulations are amateurish in the worst way imaginable. Surely someone involved (Steven Soderbergh, executive producer?) could have pointed out that applying a solarizing filter to nearly every frame was a VERY BAD idea? The crude looping, layering, and distorting of images recalls a freshman Photoshop class. And to make matters worse, the computer animation sequences are more artless than a 1980's Wall Street pie-chart. This is not to say that improved aesthetics alone would have salvaged this film, but some meager effort in this direction may have made it tolerable as visual fodder for the accompanying music. I feel compelled to point out that the score by Philip Glass will certainly satisfy his fans. Not a radical departure, but rather a refinement of what Glass does best with lovely violin contributions by Yo Yo Ma. If you decide to see this film be certain to focus your attention on the brief opening sequence. While you may already be familiar with Detroit's once majestic but long abandoned Michigan Central Railroad Station 89 minutes later you will find yourself remembering this image of 20th century decay as the critical point when you should have headed for the EXIT sign/hit the STOP button, etc. You've been warned.
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