Tuesday, July 5


Life Out of Balance

I don't know if anybody out there is checking this site regularly yet, but in case somebody is, I apologize for the long break since my last entry. Back in the days before I'd heard the word "blog", when I used to post a round-up of short reactions to each film I'd seen since the last round-up, I usually did it once every week or two. We'll see how often I find myself able to write entries here.

So what have I been doing in the past week or so? Well, seeing quite a few movies for one. I saw three silent movies (Chang, Grass, and South) at the Balboa last week, though I'd seen two of them before. South was new for me, except for the fact that many clips had been incorporated into the 2000 documentary the Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Adventure. It was nice seeing these amazing images of a wooden ship travelling through the Antarctic ice without having to hear Liam Neeson's oh-so-earnest commentary (instead we were treated to a score by Nick Phelps, apparantly his first time playing keyboard accompaniment for a silent film, though he also incorporated his usual clarinet and flute playing as well). But I have to admit that the film's structure, at least in the version screened, left something to be desired. It felt a bit of a sanatized version of the events, especially with so much ancestral-to-March of the Penguins footage of playful emporers dominating the last reel or two.

Then I went to a music festival over the weekend, but the day after coming back (that, is, today) I couldn't resist attending one last program of the Balboa's Human/Nature series. This time it was Koyaanisqatsi, which I'd only ever seen on VHS before, and Chac, the Rain God which I'd never seen at all. The latter had been recommended as a good film about "rite of passage", and the scene of crossing the waterfall is pretty powerful in that regard, but as a whole I have to say I didn't find that the film really works. The direction given the non-professional actors makes them mostly seem stilted and self-conscious, unlike those in a De Sica or Bresson film. The camerawork is largely undistinguished despite the attractive Chiapas setting. And I hate to say it, but the optical effects by Pat O'Neill look nothing else but chinsey 30 years down the line.

Seeing Koyaanisqatsi on the big screen convinced me that it really is a good film, despite all of the grumblings of its detractors. I was afraid that after seeing (and loving) obvious precursors like Man With a Movie Camera and Fata Morgana in the past several months I might find Godfrey Reggio's 1983 film derivative. But I shouldn't have worried. Maybe it doesn't quite scale the heights of those earlier films but it definitely stands on its own merits, especially the segments with the greatest amount of on-screen motion. Sometimes I would deliberately let my eyes shift out of focus for a moment and watch abstract shapes and colors work their rhythms, then shift back for clearer perspective. There's just some awesome image-making in that movie.

I remember asking you if you had seen this film. Nice to stumble across the original post in your journal. Cool site!
You must mean Koyaanisqatsi, not South or Chac. The first place I saw it was on VHS in 1994 or 1995. You'll never guess where. Wish I'd had the cash to go to all three nights at Davies the other week, but was glad to finally cross Powaqqatsi of my list. I think the music's better in that one anyway, even if the images aren't quite as strong.
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