Motion-Picture Poetry That Explores Life

By Sterritt, David | The Christian Science Monitor, November 1, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Motion-Picture Poetry That Explores Life


Sterritt, David, The Christian Science Monitor


At a time when commercialism has squeezed the life out of whatever idealism American moviemaking ever had, Godfrey Reggio's career shines like a lonely beacon.

In the early 1980s, he started a trilogy that would break every mainstream rule - no stories, no characters, no dialogue - but would carry messages about contemporary life that he felt moviegoers needed to hear.

Reggio has pursued this project with persistence, and with the release of "Naqoyqatsi" his vision is complete.

The new picture isn't the strongest of the three - the first, "Koyaanisqatsi," still holds that honor - but its best moments offer a sense of motion-picture poetry that will lift receptive viewers out of their seats.

All three parts of the "qatsi" trilogy are free-association documentaries exploring the idea that humanity has fallen out of equilibrium with the natural world, and needs to realign its psychological and spiritual priorities if it is to survive and prosper.

"Koyaanisqatsi" tackles this most directly, taking its title from a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance," and filling its length with images of technology and "progress" running amok. The less compelling "Powaqqatsi," translated as "life in transformation," explores the effects of materialism and globalization on people in poor regions of the Earth.

"Naqoyqatsi," focusing on "life as war," has the same basic form as the 1983 and 1988 installments.

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