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Koyaanisqatsi [VHS] (1983)

Lou Dobbs , Ted Koppel , Godfrey Reggio  |  Unrated |  VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lou Dobbs, Ted Koppel
  • Directors: Godfrey Reggio
  • Writers: Ron Fricke, Godfrey Reggio, Alton Walpole, Michael Hoenig
  • Producers: Godfrey Reggio, Alton Walpole, Francis Ford Coppola, Lawrence Taub, Mel Lawrence
  • Format: Color, Original recording reissued, NTSC
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Polygram Video
  • VHS Release Date: January 1, 1999
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303832563
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,799 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


First-time filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's experimental documentary from 1983--shot mostly in the desert Southwest and New York City on a tiny budget with no script, then attracting the support of Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and enlisting the indispensable musical contribution of Philip Glass--delighted college students on the midnight circuit and fans of minimalism for many years. Meanwhile, its techniques, merging cinematographer Ron Fricke's time-lapse shots (alternately peripatetic and hyperspeed) with Glass's reiterative music (from the meditative to the orgiastic)--as well as its ecology-minded imagery--crept into the consciousness of popular culture. The influence of Koyaanisqatsi, or "life out of balance," has by now become unmistakable in television advertisements, music videos, and, of course, in similar movies such as Fricke's own Chronos and Craig McCourry's Apogee. Reggio shot a sequel, Powaqqatsi (1988), and is planning to complete the trilogy with Naqoyqatsi. Koyaanisqatsi provides the uninitiated the chance to see where it all started--along with an intense audiovisual rush. --Robert Burns Neveldine

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
314 of 341 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aspect Ratio Correct (with some background info) September 29, 2002
The issue with the aspect ratio of the MGM DVDs of KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI has come up here and on the Amazon website, among other places. As a producer and technical advisor on the third Qatsi film, while I was not directly involved in the process of manufacturing these DVDs, I was well aware of the decision-making behind that process. I can say definitively that the 1:1.85 aspect ratio (letter-boxed) on the MGM DVDs accurately reflects the author's intentions and reproduces the original theatrical aspect ratio of the projected films.
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.
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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Film Comes Close September 29, 2004
Everyone obviously has taste and opinion, but simply put, this is my favorite movie of all time (altho, as at least one other reviewer mentioned, not as powerful as the big screen). There is no film like it, except perhaps the Imax film Chronos (which is basically the eye candy with no substance) and possibly the sequel. But those are only similarities in style of filmmaking, not in quality.

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.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, and a world really out of balance March 9, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
The first of Godfrey Reggio's finally finished trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi, is a visually-stunning non-narrative film depicting a life and world out of balance. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word meaning one of five things: "crazy life, life in turmoil, life disintegrating, life out of balance, and a state of life that calls for another way of living." After watching this film, one will definitely see all five definitions painfully applicable.
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.
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85 of 107 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yikes !! Have we been HAD ?? September 16, 2002
First, the good news: Koyaanisqatsi is finally available commercially in DVD format.
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...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favorites
Published 5 days ago by Marcella J. Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars but the story that the film tells without the use of a single word is...
This film is absolutely life-changing. It will take your breath away. The score by Philip Glass is the reason I initially watched it, but the story that the film tells without the... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Blake Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Simply a timeless classic and the paring with Glass compositions is intoxicating.
All that are interested in film should reach back and view.
Published 3 months ago by kicks.in.clt
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising
There are no characters, there is no plot, there is no dialogue. The whole movie consists in continuous repetitious music.

And yet . . and yet . . Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ian Wardell
2.0 out of 5 stars Same old message
I was born in 1992, so I was not around when this film was released. Maybe it was revolutionary back in the '80s, but as a member of the millennial generation, I'm tired of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Sarah Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC! saw this video back in the 1980s.
Love this movie video that when I first saw it early 1980s. It relays a great message and warning that our personal excesses and indulgences coupled with our overreliance on... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kristopher Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars great movie... if...
This is a fantastic movie and it will change your life. I know this sounds horrible, but do not watch this movie sober or you will hate it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Marina
1.0 out of 5 stars thumbs down
This film was slow and boring. The quality of the video was rather poor, and the music(?) was extremely annoying most of the time, reminding me of the background audio of kids'... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ed Rubin
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to find- interesting to watch
Bought this as a gift-- my boyfriend had seen it a long time ago and had been telling me about it for almost a year. Was so excited to be able to find it... Read more
Published 6 months ago by H
3.0 out of 5 stars Great to fill out the set of their movies.
Let's just say perfect intent, but after Blu Ray and especially their other Blu Ray from 8K source, this leaves a lot to be desired. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Stephan H. Kaden
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