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The Qatsi Trilogy (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

68 customer reviews

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(Dec 11, 2012)
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Editorial Reviews

A singular artist and activist, Godfrey Reggio is best known for his galvanizing trio of films The Qatsi Trilogy. Astonishingly photographed, and featuring unforgettable, cascading scores by Philip Glass (Mishima), these are immersive sensory experiences that meditate on the havoc humankind’s fascination with technology has wreaked on our world. From 1983’s Koyaanisqatsi (the title is a Hopi word that means “life out of balance”) to 1988’s Powaqqatsi (“life in transformation”) to 2002’s Naqoyqatsi (“life as war”), Reggio takes us on an edifying journey from the ancient to the contemporary, from nature to industry and back again, all the while keeping our eyes wide with wonder.


An unorthodox work in every way, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi was nevertheless a sensation when it was released in 1983. The film wordlessly surveys the rapidly changing environments of the northern hemisphere. The director, cinematographer Ron Fricke, and composer Philip Glass created an astonishing collage; the film shuttles the viewer from one jaw-dropping vision to the next, moving from images of untouched nature to others depicting human beings’ increasing reliance on technology. Often using hypnotic time-lapse photography, Koyaanisqatsi looks at our world from an angle unlike any other.


  • 86 minutes
  • Color
  • 5.1 surround
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio


    Five years after Godfrey Reggio stunned audiences with Koyaanisqatsi, he joined forces again with composer Philip Glass and other collaborators for a second chapter. Here, Reggio turns his sights on third world nations in the southern hemisphere. Forgoing the sped-up aesthetic of the first film, Powaqqatsi employs a meditative slow motion in order to reveal the everyday beauty of the traditional ways of life of native people in Africa, Asia, and South America, and to show how those cultures are being eroded as their environment is gradually taken over by industry. This is the most intensely spiritual segment of Reggio’s philosophical and visually remarkable Qatsi Trilogy.


  • 99 minutes
  • Color
  • 5.1 surround
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio


    Godfrey Reggio takes on the digital revolution in the final chapter of his Qatsi Trilogy, Naqoyqatsi. With a variety of cinematic techniques, including slow motion, time-lapse, and computer-generated imagery, the film tells of a world that has completely transitioned from a natural environment to a human-made one. Globalization is complete, all of our interactions are technologically mediated, and all images are manipulated. From this (virtual) reality, Reggio sculpts a frenetic yet ruminative cinematic portrait of a world that has become officially postlanguage.


  • 89 minutes
  • Color
  • 5.1 surround
  • 1.78:1 aspect ratio

  • Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfers of all three films, approved by director Godfrey Reggio, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
  • Essence of Life, an interview program with Reggio and composer Philip Glass on Koyaanisqatsi
  • New interview with cinematographer Ron Fricke about Koyaanisqatsi
  • Early forty-minute demo version of Koyaanisqatsi with a scratch soundtrack by Allen Ginsberg, along with a new introduction by Reggio
  • New interview with Reggio about Koyaanisqatsi’s original visual concept, with behind-the-scenes footage
  • Impact of Progress, an interview program with Reggio and Glass on their collaboration
  • Inspiration and Ideas, an interview with Reggio about his greatest influences and teachers
  • Anima Mundi (1992), Reggio’s twenty-eight-minute montage of images of over seventy animal species, scored by Glass
  • Video afterword by Reggio on the trilogy
  • The Making of “Naqoyqatsi,” a brief documentary featuring interviews with the production crew
  • Panel discussion on Naqoyqatsi from 2003, with Reggio, Glass, editor Jon Kane, and music critic John Rockwell
  • Music of “Naqoyqatsi,” an interview with Glass and cellist Yo-Yo Ma
  • Television spots and an interview with Reggio relating to his 1970s multimedia privacy campaign in New Mexico
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays on the trilogy by film scholar Scott MacDonald, Rockwell, and author and environmentalist Bill McKibben

  • Product Details

    • Directors: Godfrey Reggio
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
    • Language: English
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
    • Number of discs: 3
    • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: December 11, 2012
    • Run Time: 274 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B009D004MC
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,693 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Sunny on December 13, 2012
    Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
    i've seen all of the versions of Koyaanisqatsi, VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, IRE DVD. The Criterion transfer is a completely different movie.

    I'm not technical when it comes to film, but, for lack of a better description, the Criterion transfer has rock solid frames (no jitter). In a normal movie this wouldn't be as big of a deal as it is in Koyaanisqatsi. The time-lapse filming is just transformed into something that is magnificent. Everything looks awesome and my favorite scenes are just incredible.

    The contrast of the film seems to be double. I am not sure if that is more a product of the transfer or the format, but the cloudscapes and cityscapes are unbelievable. I could watch The Grid over and over again.

    This is the best Blu-Ray disc. Period. If I could give it 10 I would.

    Thank you Criterion!
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    67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Utopian J on November 5, 2012
    Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
    This is obviously not a review of the Blu-ray set, but a comment on the release of this amazing trilogy. I have been waiting since the dawn of time (okay, the dawn of blu-rays) for this to be released in this format. And to find out that Criterion will be putting them out leaves me in a state of sheer joy!

    Three of my favorite films of all time, "The Qatsi Trilogy" is a work of art that virtually nothing else can compare to. A series of gorgeous films, not documentaries (though some have called them this) but moving, living art, that depicts man and Earth's relationship, man and society's relationship, and man and machine's relationship.

    "Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance" delves into the beauty of the planet, and man's intrusion upon it. As in all three films, time lapse photography, stunning aerial footage, and some of the most brilliant cinematography you will ever witness (by Ron Fricke, director of Baraka, which is a distillation of this trilogy in my eyes), will keep you in awe and wonder, from first frame to last.

    Add to that, three lush soundtracks by Phillip Glass (with an amazing performance by Yo-Yo Ma on "Naqoyqatsi") and Godfrey Reggio's stunning vision, captured and created over two decades, and you have a stellar work of art, that is truly incomparable. There is no dialogue in ANY of these films, but an epic tale is told nonetheless.

    "Powaqatsi - Life in Transformation" reaches back to ancient civilization and on into the present, questioning everything we refer to as "progress." What is the price we pay for "advancement," and how do we (and the planet) lose out by the steps we take to move forward?
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    Format: Blu-ray
    One of the most fascinating and also important American fillmmaker of experimental documentary films, Godfrey Reggio will be known as the creator of the Qatsi Trilogy. Three films that were taken from the Hopi language, "Koyaanisqatsi" (which translates to "Unbalanced Life" and created back in 1982), "Powaqqatsi" (which translates to "Life in Transition" and created back in 1988) and "Naqoyatsi" (which translates to "Life as War" and released in 2002) are films that are meant for one to watch and give their own interpretation.

    And now all three films will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection in December 2012.

    It's important to note that these films are without dialogue, they are in essence films of visual poetry and everyone will have their own interpretation. These are films that are meant to be experienced and truthfully, going into summaries about these three films will make this film seem weak by reading it, as the purpose of these films are mean to be visual. But I will give my interpretation of these three films in my judgment call section.

    So, we start with the filmmaker. Godfrey Reggio is one of the most intriguing filmmakers who may not be as well-known as commercial Hollywood filmmakers but he is a person who has given back to the community. The Co-founder of La Clinica de la Gente, the facility provided medical care to 12,000 community members in Santa Fe. He started up "La Gente", a community organizing project in Northern New Mexico's barrios. In 1963, he co-founded Young Citizens for Action, a community organization to aid juveniles who may have gotten themselves into trouble due to becoming part of a street gang.
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    19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T. Casey on December 20, 2012
    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    People will argue the value and meaning of these three films forever, so instead I'm going to focus on the Criterion Collection DVD set "The Qatsi Trilogy".

    1) The prints look better. The MGM DVD prints looked really good, but these DVDs look even better. In particular, the opening sequence of "Koyannisqatsi" is so perfect that it takes away a bit from my original experience of the film. On previous viewings, I couldn't grasp the scale of each cave shot, so I didn't know if I was looking at the side of a cliff or a tiny cave painting. That loss of a frame of reference was very important to my interpretation of the rest of the movie. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the picture is so clear on this print that I can see the grain in the rock and can instantly ascertain the scale. Clarity takes away a bit for me, but the tradeoff is that the entire film looks stunning.

    I've never seen "Powwaqatsi" in a bad print, and this one doesn't disappoint. And "Naqoyqatsi" finally looks OK, though there is still some stretching in aspect ratios, but at least it's part of the director's intent.

    2) There are more extras than on the MGM DVDs, including rough pre-Glass cuts of "Koyannisqatsi" and a long overdue interview with Ron Fricke, the guy with the camera. For "Qatsi" fans, this stuff is golden.

    Worth every penny. Give your old MGM DVDs to someone who hasn't seen these films.
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