Thursday, August 04, 2005

Life Out of Balance

It's easy to dismiss this sort of artsy documentary off-hand. Once before we were married Cha and I had a roommate who burned African veldt grass to purify himself while rubbing a crystal in his pits in lieu of bathing each morning--Koyaanisqatsi would've been right up his alley. Thinking about him sitting shirtless and Indian-style in the living room of that Loch Raven sweatbox apartment, swaying back and forth to Philip Glass and drumming on his chest? Why, I almost turned the film off at the credits.

That said, I found Reggio's film beautiful and brilliant and immediately after viewing I added the other two in the trilogy to my endless Netflix queue.

Koyaanisqatsi jumps dramatically in tone, from extended quiet visions of nature to war footage to the lovely spiraling of a booster rocket falling endlessly after a space launch catastrophe. At times Reggio films individual people and their hostile curiosity at being filmed accentuates their humanity. Then he'll pull back and show time-lapse footage of factory workers, Grand Central Station patrons, the chaos of the NYTSE. All of that busy-ness, all of that energy. Glass's soundtrack, which I find unlistenable on CD, is perfectly matched to the visuals, most particularly during the more manic sequences.

Looking at Reggio's cityscape montages I felt how someone from the 1890s might feel seeing our urban centers at night from above; a bit surprised at the brightness and bustle, but a bit disappointed in how things have turned out.

I must note how derivative Baraka was, even to the point of stealing some clever visual metaphors from Koyaanisqatsi. I still like Baraka, though.