Koyaanisqatsi (1982) - Who's seen it?

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CB2001

Master Member
Okay, I have to ask: How many here have seen Koyaanisqatsi? When and where was the first time you saw it? What do you think of it?

For me, I have seen it. It was back in the Fall Term of 2005. I was attending FSU at the time, and one of my classes for Fall was Intro to Film. Our classroom was the auditorium-type classrooms that had a big projector screen. Our instructor, when he introduced the film to us, said, "The film we're about to watch has a story. However, unlike the typical films you are all used to, this one doesn't have a plot or central characters." When I heard it, I thought it was impossible for such a film. But when the film began rolling and I was watching it, I became completely amazed by the combination of Philip Glass' music and the visuals that comprised the film. And my teacher was right, it has a story, but no plot and no central characters. I remember after class got out, I was humming the main theme as I road my bike home. I eventually picked it up on DVD and it has been in my collection ever since. Honestly, I think that many more filmmakers should watch it, as it serves as a good example of storytelling.

BTW, if you haven't seen it, MGM's YouTube Channel has the whole film up (with commercials, ick!). But I recommend watching it on DVD if you can. If you can't, then YouTube is the better option than not watching it at all. :cool
 

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CB2001

Master Member
I saw it way back in the day, loved it. Hypnotic, moving. There are two more films in the "Qatsi Trilogy" but I haven't seen the others.

Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and presenting Naqoyqatsi, by director Godfrey Reggio

I live in NYC, so every time I look down the avenue at rush hour, I have that Glass music blaring in my head. :lol

k
I'm in the same boat when it comes to the other two films in the "Qatsi trilogy." I've only seen the one. And I also know what you mean about constantly being reminded of it. In fact, it influenced me a bit and for one of my 35mm photography class shots, I did a Koyaanisqatsi-esque shot I called "Street at the Speed of Life" (which can be seen here). I later went back and recreated the shot using a digital camera which I dubbed "Street Revisited" (I have a color version and a black and white one to match the original shot I did). And when it comes to the music, man, I still can't get it out of my head. Earlier today, when I was shopping at Winn-Dixie, the track "Prophecies" popped into my skull while I was in line for checkout.
 

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Agent RayBans

Sr Member
I saw it for the first time during my senior year of high school. My English teacher was a real existential character, and introduced us all to some pretty heavy, deep stuff. We watched it as a class, and had a discussion about it afterwards. The movie was lost on at least half the class, but for the most part everyone "got the message".

I really enjoyed it, especially the soundtrack. I had a real nerd moment when I saw Watchmen a few years later in theaters and heard Pruit Igoe & Prophecies set to Dr. Manhattan's story. A perfect match. And it was really great to hear Philip Glass's influences in Daft Punk's Tron Legacy soundtrack.

Come to think of it, I am very surprised Koyaanisqatsi is not on Blu-ray yet. Here's hoping that when it does happen, they do the movie justice. I'd buy it in a heart beat.
 

neosporing

Sr Member
i think it was '86 and around 4:20 a.m. i was watching a show called 'alive from off center'... it had david byrn, john cage, lori anderson and phillip glass and others.

the video made to the phillip glass aria from the photographer that sent me on an old school quest (before google i had to hit the record stores, library etc.) and discovered koyaanisqatsi in a video store.

i believe the cinema photography responsible for these visuals was made by Ron Fricke <imdb link> who made a number of other visually impressive films but only 3 to my knowledge with phillip glass.

it was Ron Fricke that filmed the lava erupting scenes for revenge of the sith.

this video is responsible for the loss of many of my brain cells as it turned into a friday night ritual of sorts... oh the memories.. or missing memories ...
 
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micdavis

Master Member
Very trippy to be sure.

And don't watch it within 24 hours of that Church of the Sub-Genius stuff.

You won't come back from that.
 

Colin Droidmilk

Sr Member
The only film I know of apart from 2001 to concern itself with what we might call 'the big picture'.
It's no coincidence that both films lack central characters and 'satisfactory' plots. Characters and plots distract attention from 'the big picture.' Characters and plots keep the viewer tethered to his usual perspectives, and prevent him from ascending to a bird's eye view of human planetary destiny.

Saw it in the late 80s on video. Massive influence on my whole outlook as an artist. Most of it is condemnatory of modern civilisation, of course, yet 'The Grid' section with its near-exultant Glass score, is almost celebratory of modern, industrial-scale human energy. Pestilential, destructive and idiotic as that energy is, the movie seems to say, it is still energy, a wild outflowing of the universal life-force...as if to say 'yes,we are fools, but we are beautiful fools, as we race to self-destruction.'

What breaks my heart watching it now, though, is the thought of just how much we've trashed the place since 1983...

Saw the second movie but it wasn't as compelling.
 
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Ozymandius

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I hate to be the dessenting opinion here, but I've always disliked these types of art house films. And it's not that I don't get it, I do, but then that's precisely my problem with it. It's just always struck me as being rather pedantic, and well... trite.

I just can't understand how this is considered deep when it dwells on simplistic themes like a dullard. Themes, by the way, that a 3 year old child could illustrate just as well with finger paints and a Casio keyboard.

And the thing is that I do actually respect the artists for what they are trying to do. The politcs of it aside, it is an earnest attempt at art, and that in itself is laudable. But I think that, because it is so simplistic, that it feels more like a sketch than a fully realized work of art and perhaps that's why it irks me.
 

Colin Droidmilk

Sr Member
I hate to be the dessenting opinion here, but I've always disliked these types of art house films. And it's not that I don't get it, I do, but then that's precisely my problem with it. It's just always struck me as being rather pedantic, and well... trite.

I just can't understand how this is considered deep when it dwells on simplistic themes like a dullard. Themes, by the way, that a 3 year old child could illustrate just as well with finger paints and a Casio keyboard.

And the thing is that I do actually respect the artists for what they are trying to do. The politcs of it aside, it is an earnest attempt at art, and that in itself is laudable. But I think that, because it is so simplistic, that it feels more like a sketch than a fully realized work of art and perhaps that's why it irks me.
I wouldn't say the film is 'deep'. It simply provides a rare kind of bird's eye perspective on what goes on here. We all know the issues intellectually but the film makes you feel them again in your gut. That's the value of such exercises. As to modern art being simple... well we're gonna get into the whole my '3 year old can paint better than Picasso' thing, lol....
 

Jayn

Sr Member
I saw the first two when they came out & enjoyed them. Liked the first more than the 2nd. Though I can appreciate the music for what it is, I'm not a big fan of Glass.
 

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MaulWalker

Sr Member
I saw it in the theater (yes, an art house cinema) in the mid-80s and was totally blown away. Koyannisqatsi is my favorite movie.

In the late 80s, PBS showed the movie and made my dad watch it with me. He found it thought-provoking.

In the same time frame, I took a music appreciation college course and the professor had nothing good to say about Philip Glass. The prof's thinking was that yes, musical themes may be repeated but that Glass repeated themes to the level where they became nauseating. But I can't imagine any better musical score for Koyannisqatsi.

I tried to find the movie on video back in the day (pre-eBay) and it was out of print. The DVD is on my now on my Amazon wish list.
 

Panaflex

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I saw it back in 1987 on video tape. What really floored me was the cinematography; today most of it has been copied and built upon ad nauseum but for it's time, it was cutting edge visual eye candy. I'll always respect it for it's ahead of it's time look.
 

MFP 2020

Sr Member
Saw it with my best friend when it came out, at the California Science Center (then the Museum of Science and Industry). The visuals were fantastic but that was enough mind-numbing Phillip Glass arpeggiation to last a lifetime. And I was a little disappointed that after watching that rocket part plummet for like five minutes, I didn't get to see it hit the ground.

Still, it's the gift that keeps on giving. Every once in a while I'll look at my friend and intone, "Koyyyyyaaaannniisqaaaaatssssiiiii......"
 

Ozymandius

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
As to modern art being simple... well we're gonna get into the whole my '3 year old can paint better than Picasso' thing, lol....
How can you infer from my opinion of one film how I feel about the entirety of modern art? That just doesn't fit at all and I never said any such thing.

While it may be true that many disciplines of art seek to simply the forms into their more base components, there is nothing simple about their execution. I've seen Pollocks work in person, and only a fool could ever think they were simple. The subtlety, nuance, and depth he put into each one of his paintings is astounding. The fact that they appear so deceptively simple in their execution makes them even more amazing.

And that was the whole basis of my critique on Koyaanisqatsi. Everything is has to say is right there on the face of it, without any depth or nuance at all, just like a finger painting. It is simple in both thought and execution.

Granted, the photography is beautiful and skillfully done, but there's just nothing more to it than that. To me it's just hollow and empty.
 

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