Review: Naqoyqatsi


Godfrey Reggio concludes his Qatsi Trilogy with Naqoyqatsi, a cinematic dirge to “life as war” set to a glorious, sure-to-be-classic Philip Glass score (accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma on cello). Despite the lofty credentials (Steven Soderbergh executive produced, Miramax will handle the distribution rights), this 90-minute global communication is a mostly minimalist pastiche built on various modes of repetition. Reggio evokes a kingdom falling into the sea when a decaying building’s collapse is cross-faded with an image of crashing waves. Olympic event footage emphasizes the solidarity between free markets while nuclear explosions point fingers at our hypocrisy. For the most part, Reggio’s approach is both obvious and overwrought. It’s only a matter of time before a parade of symbols (a swastika and a Star of David among them) kicks things into high gear. Dolly the genetically engineered sheep makes an appearance, a series of ones and zeros doing backup. The prevailing message could be: “Why can’t we all get along? We’re all made of binary code?” Reggio’s hyper-aware experiment, though, isn’t so much reductive as it is surprisingly unambiguous. A work like this should encourage the spectator to tease out its ambiguities through subtle perception (see Bill Morrison’s Decasia for that); here, the zeros and ones do all the work for us. Still, Reggio and Glass put on an intoxicating show. If anything, the Glass piece “Intensive Time” could be the best techno song of the new millenium.

 Director: Godfrey Reggio  Screenwriter: Godfrey Reggio, Philip Glass  Distributor: Miramax Films  Running Time: 89 min  Rating: PG  Year: 2002  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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