Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance
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KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI were both principally photographed in the 1980s, when widescreen television was a vague idea somewhere off in the future and a large picture tube was 27" across. While conceived as theatrical features, both films were shot with consideration of possible television broadcast, which at that time was almost exclusively full-frame 1:1.33 (4x3). The alternative to "protecting" for 4x3 by composing the image to work well in full frame would have been to "pan and scan" the widescreen image when transferred to videotape for home video release and TV broadcast.
I am sure that anyone who has seen KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI would agree the pan and scan approach would have yielded a ludicrous result for these films: for this reason when the films have been broadcast they are presented in the full "academy" aperture of 4x3, showing _more_of the original film frame than was shown in the theater. And when video transfers of the films were made prior to the MGM DVD they were also made 1:1.33. This reflected the conventional practice at the time, when very few films were transferred to video wide-screen.Read more ›
But I will say, while it's my favorite movie, I can only stand to watch it about every 5 years, because for about 3-4 days after watching Koyaanisqatsi, I can barely deal with this society. It just makes me want to cry to drive on city streets.
So if you're already trying to come to grips with reality, this movie probably would be counter-productive. But for everybody who thinks everything about modern western civilization truly is "progress", I couldn't recommend this film enough.
What it will be for those people, is a priceless perspective adjustment. It won't make you permanently pessimistic or anything, it will just give you a new perspective.
Basically, the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the film has some wonderful shots of the desert, waterfalls, geologic formations, clouds billowing so close it's as if one's inside them, and aerial photography that makes one appreciate the landscape.
The rest of the movie then shows the human side. Caterpillar tractors lay out pipes, dotting the landscape with a network of electric towers, resembling wire framework travesties of men, power plants billowing steam and smoke smack in the middle of the desert, atomic tests in the desert, nuclear plants... abominations invading the environment. Rivers have been stopped by dams. And the military testing in the desert does nothing more than pollute the ground and air with explosions.
Switch over to the big city and the 12 lane highways, with its network of overpasses, byways, merging lanes, cars moving bumper to bumper, passing each other. Then we see the decrepit slums, abandoned projects, which are then blown up, slowly sinking to the ground in clouds of dust.
The time-lapse photography of people milling in line for subway tickets, eating, bowling, playing video games, etc. shows the city as the organism, streets, entrances and exits as blood vessels, humans as the blood cells.Read more ›
Next, the bad news: The film image has been CROPPED! "Enhanced", if you will, for widescreen TVs. The disc's case says, "16:9 WIDESCREEN 1.85:1 -- Theatrical release format." Bull ! I've seen Koyaanisqatsi in the theater and was immediately struck by the fact it was being projected in the standard 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio--not widescreen ! I'm no fan of pan-and-scan hatchet-jobs on widescreen films, but neither am I a fan of this equally reprehensible practice of cutting away significant portions of a film's top and bottom just so it will fit comfortably on somebody's new [expensive]16:9 50" plasma wall-set. Just as P&S deprives us of frequently vital side information, here we are deprived of the beauty of Ron Fricke's *full-screen* images. And, man, do things look cramped up there. Do I dare lay the blame on MGM, rather than on the Institute for Regional Education, which owns the film ? In any event, it's a pity, a real pity ! And a shame !
The other bad news is that the 5.1 soundtrack on this new disc is muffled, dull and lacking in definition and depth when compared to the privately-issued disc the IRE made available some time ago. Surround effects that were so obvious in the theater are nowhere to be heard here. I don't know if the IRE is still making their offer, now that this new MGM disc is in stores; but if you're a true Koyaanisqatsi devotee, and can ante up the money for a donation, my advice to you is to give it some *serious* consideration. It's absolutely worth it !
I'd really hoped this new release would be a dream-come-true, but now having viewed it, the only satisfaction I take is that I still have my private copy of the IRE disc...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely terrific film and soundtrack! Philip Glass is one of my favorite musicians. This movie should be required viewing in schools.Published 21 days ago by Timmy B.
When it was originally made, the cinematography was mindblowing. Alas, when I viewed it again (30 or so years down the road) the cinematography no longer seems so revolutionary. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Noonei N'particular
Never heard of this film until episode #168 of "Moving On" podcast on csicon.net . I rented this film surprised there is no spoken dialog though-out. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Even though it's a bit dated now, this is a movie worth seeing. No dialogue, just music by Phillip Glass and photography of what the planet used to look like and what human beings... Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. D. Portnoy
This is still the absolute king of time lapse photography, and probably a once in a lifetime combination of genius in terms of the visuals and their relationship to the music. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
One of my favorite movies!!!! It is powerful, spiritual and leaves everyone that watches it thinking about the images and humanity differently.Published 3 months ago by Paul Larue Burns
Not for all tastes; is either riveting or incredibly boring. Some of it makes no sense, but it appears that's what the filmmaker wanted. So be it.....Published 4 months ago by Bill M