The Hollywood Reporter, Monday, October 18, 1982
Film Review


New York – In his film debut, producer/director Godfrey Reggio has accomplished with "Koyaabusatsu" what heretofore has been regarded as close to impossible – he has taken the concept of the personal film, and with an investment of $2.5 million and seven years has parlayed it into an engrossing feature, 87 minutes long.

"Koyaanisqatsi," void of performers, dialogue and overt story line, delivers satisfaction on so many levels that it could very well excite mass audiences of promoted properly. Lofty though the picture may be, it defies pidgeonholing as "art" as its splendor is completely within the grasp of the common man.

The film’s score by Philip Glass is an outstanding achievement in itself. Striking and intense, it has been so well executed that it melds with the visuals perfectly, always enhancing, never detracting or overpowering. The union of Glass’ music and Ron Fricke’s luscious 35mm cinematography is a blessed one that redefines the potential of filmmaking.

The title of the film is taken from the Hopi language and means "life out of balance." Even though Reggio’s point is to contrast the natural with the man-made, he never taints the film’s perspective of urban life with the excess of ugliness common to essays of this nature. Whatever beauty lies in New York’s skyline or a busy Los Angeles freeway at night, for example, is there to behold. Nor, does he blame the ills of the earth on the individual – the few people that are actually studied in "Koyaanisqatsi" seem to be unself-conscious victims of a long-standing system out of kilter.

Effective, frequent time-lapse sequences, used primarily to emphasize the hectic pace of modern society, prove fascinating, often riveting, and also serve to lend an air of humor to the film. Shots of Monument Valley and Four Corners are breathtaking, as are time-lapse aerial views of cloud banks, which roll through the atmosphere like troubled seas.

"Koyaanisqatsi," in color, was produced by the Institute for Regional Education, a nonprofit foundation, devoted to social issues concerning the people of the American Southwest.

-Tom Gilbert

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