November 30, 2002

NOT QUITE QATSI

So NAQOYQATSI finally opened Friday in San Diego, and I was there at the opening matinee.

I saw KOYAANISQATSI several times during its opening week at the huge, Cinerama-curved screen Uptown theatre in Washington, D.C. I was amazed. I bought the soundtrack; it was my introduction to Philip Glass.

And then POWAQQATSI came out, and while a little less "whelming" in impact, still, I found it profound and thought-provoking. And I liked the POW's soundtrack even more than KOY, and I loved KOY.

So for years I've been eagerly awaiting NAQOYQATSI -- and the soundtrack.

The verdict? NAQOY is the least impressive of the three. My first thought was -- no Ron Fricke at the camera. As I believe someone's already said, NAQOYQATSI is like, instead of two turntables and a microphone, two Macintoshes and Maya and AfterEffects. The film is annoyingly grainy. The film was obviously produced on computer, and the quality is poor: visible jaggies all the way through, and that grainy quality -- ugh. The whole movie is like watching a camera's filming of Godfrey Reggio's computer screen in screen-saver mode, with Philip Glass music in the background.

I was very disappointed. In fact some of the film was downright insulting: re-use of tired old stock footage from across the 20th century: footage shown so many times in so many films and television shows that it cheapens NAQOYQATSI and suggests either low-budget or writer's block or both.

At least KOY and POW are now out on DVD, as is Fricke's BARAKA, which as far as I'm concerned, is really the third film in the trilogy.

NAQOY has its moments -- the best being the young model smiling and preening before the camera, as she holds a Big Mac, finally, in slow motion glory, biting into it as if enacting a religious sacrament. Got a nice audience chuckle, that. And the music has its moments.

But overall the movie feels poorly conceived, cheaply made, poorly scripted, and simply a weak accompaniment to a fairly good musical soundtrack. Posted by brian at November 30, 2002 03:15 AM

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