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Powaqqatsi

21 Mar

Powaqqatsi – directed by Godfrey Reggio. Documentary Coffee Table Movie. Striking moving pictures of folks around the world. 99 minutes Color 1988.
★★
Tempted to give this one star, I give it two because the films of people at their work and at their play and at their dance are ravishing. So ravishing are they that their color supplants their content. And two stars because we are allowed to dwell upon them at length, which is rare these days when film-makers shoot as though the skies did not exists but  mayflies in them only.

But this film is a ghastly mess. And the mess is caused not just by Philip Glass’s score, which imposes itself and intrudes itself and pounds itself down on every frame, and is too over-wrought to allow us to keep our patience at all at all. Highly orchestrated, and, of course, formal to a degree, it slathers itself like bleak red paint over everything.

The mess is also and principally caused by the bigotry of the director’s attempt on our consciousnesses to set us up as suckers for its liberal message. We are supposed to feel compassion and guilt, I suppose, for the workers of this world in the various nations in which they wonderfully appear, and at the same time to feel that industry is the enemy, that industry is sucking the life-blood from us all.

Well, I am an old-fashioned liberal, and industry may well be the enemy, but I am so old fashioned a liberal that I do even acknowledge there is such a thing as enemies. And I certainly do not wish to be badgered into that view by a propaganda so gross. Triumph Of The Will slants Hitler up into an exaltation, and this attempts the same for the poor. It is a disgrace that a cause so fine should be shoddied up into an ideology no different in its force and temper than that of the Ku Klux Klan. The energy behind the film is one of ideological dictatorship and it does not matter to me whether that a dictatorship is fascism or liberalism – it is still Dictatorship.

Moreover, one watches the film go by – and it does go by without voice-over – and one is beguiled by the beauty of the humans it shows at the loom of their work. It begins with men covered with mud toiling up a hill in hoards with loads of mineral on their backs, but the men seem so covered in silver and gold by the light the camera has caught that one can only admire the spectacle and wonder how it is they all engage in it. And so it goes, until visions of industry appear, or almost appear, but the filmer prejudices our eye with slurred shots if it, shots in water, shots that make industry out to be something we are not to look at for clear contemplation but only in a certain way.

Big Brother has made this movie in a way that it did not need to be made. It is evidently part of a trio of Quatsi films. The moving pictures are so beautiful that I want to see more of them. If only the film-maker had let me make up my own mind about what I was watching, I should run to rent them. As it is I shall do so, but I am leery. His mentality is that of the most boring, the fundamentalist, the most absolutist of sermons.

 
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Posted in DOCUMENTARY, MUSICAL SCORE BY: Philip Glass

 
 
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