The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 September 2002

Welcome back, Qatsi

I saw Koyaanisqatsi during its first release in 1983, and it scared me, or at least left me decidedly off-center. On the face of it, the film seemed easily dismissable as neo-Luddite Technology Is Evil stuff, but no such conclusion is ever reached; if anything, the incredibly-detailed cinematography of technology both amazing and mundane comes across as equal parts condemnation and glorification. And the score by Philip Glass is a true masterpiece of minimalism, shifting imperceptibly in synchronization with one's brain waves. I left the theatre, made a copy off cable the first time it aired, and duly put it out of my mind for the next couple of decades, managing to miss Powaqqatsi, the sequel.

With the third Qatsi film, Naqoyqatsi, due this fall, MGM has issued the first two films separately on DVD, and bound them together as a promotional two-pack. (I paid $22.99 at Best Buy for the set.) No doubt the DVD would look better than my old Beta tape, but at least part of the motivation for buying this thing, apart from getting to see Powaqqatsi at last, was to see if my interpretation of the film, such as it was, stood up after all these years, or if I was just young and dumb and full of it.

And there are still no answers, nor, says director Godfrey Reggio in an interview tucked into the Special Features section, are there supposed to be. The film is supposed to open the mind, not fill it up with some particular agenda; if there are questions, the film has done its job. On that basis, Koyaanisqatsi must be considered a roaring success. And Glass' score still haunts me. (Yeah, I know, Glass can be repetitive. So is hip-hop. But you don't hear anyone complaining about hip-hop, probably because it's Authentic Ethnic Street Gibberish and therefore cherished by Relentlessly Multicultural types, under penalty of face-loss. Give me Glass any day. Steve Reich, even.)

If you haven't seen the first two films, I urge you to take a look for yourself. If nothing else, you'll get a look at the source material for almost every music-video cliché you've ever seen.

Posted at 6:23 PM to Almost Yogurt