Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Director: Godfrey Reggio
Running time: 89 minutes
Language: English
Currently showing
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While all the attention has focused on "The Matrix" and "The Lord of the Rings," another trilogy, 20 years in the making, has finally reached its conclusion. Godfrey Reggio's "Qatsi" trilogy -- featuring 1983's classic "Koyaanisqatsi," 1988's "Powaqqatsi," and now 2002's final chapter, "Naqoyqatsi" -- has a far lower profile than these other triplet films, but it is no less visionary, and, one suspects, will prove to be just as enduring.

When Reggio, a former social worker who also spent 14 years in near silence as a Christian monk, set out to make his first film at age 43, he figured he'd be lucky to finish that one, let alone a trilogy. But when "Koyaanisqatsi" finally appeared, its groundbreaking visual symphony won major backing from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, and became a massive art-house hit. (It also cemented the rep of its soundtrack composer Philip Glass, who was still driving a cab in NYC at the time.)

Reggio used a pulsing, hypnotic score by Glass to propel the viewer on a flight through pure imagery. Without story or a readily apparent structure, Reggio worked the contrast between awe-inducing natural vistas and industrial eyesores to make an unstated but inferred comment about mankind's place on the planet. This "God's-eye-view" of Earth was reinforced by the film's constant use of pixellation, shooting at extremely slow speeds so that every movement would seem incredibly sped up on playback. The contrast between the stillness of the Arizona desert, with a mere drift of clouds and shadows, to the frenetic, lurching convulsions of Los Angeles freeway traffic became obscenely clear. "Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance," and Reggio's work was a brilliant elaboration of this one, simple suggestion.