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Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance

4.5 out of 5 stars 291 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Prepare to experience a truly remarkable filma cinematic masterpiece so extraordinary that it regales the senses, stimulates the mind and actually 'redefines the potential of filmmaking (The Hollywood Reporter). Celebrated director Godfrey Reggio, innovative cinematographer Ron Fricke and Golden Globe-winning* composer Philip Glass have created a 'spellbinding [film] so rich in beauty and detail that with each viewing it becomes a new and different film (Leonard Maltin). Unique profound mesmerizing and thought-provoking (Boxoffice), Koyaanisqatsi contrasts the tranquil beauty of nature with the frenzied hum of contemporary urban society. Uniting breathtaking imagery with a hauntingly evocative, award-winning score, it is original and fascinating (People) one of the greatest films of all time (Uncut). *1998: Score (with Burkhard Dallwitz), The Truman Show

Special Features

  • Featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Philip Glass
  • 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: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: MGM
  • DVD Release Date: September 17, 2002
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (291 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000068OCS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,327 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joe Beirne on September 29, 2002
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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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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Format: DVD
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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