Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Soul-crushing Philip Glass film: Koyaanisqatsi

There's a joke: "Knock, knock - who's there? Knock, knock - who's there? Knock, knock - who's there? Knock, knock - who's there? Philip Glass." That pretty much sums up his musical style - minimal, repetitive...amazing. I've had a strong obsession with him lately. I just recently watched a documentary and saw him perform solo piano numbers at an art museum in Chicago. But maybe the best thing I've discovered by him is this film: "Koyaanisqatsi."

Created with Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi is a visual tone poem with no dialogue or vocal narrative that relies heavily on time-lapse and slow-motion. Its shots of cities, natural landscapes in the U.S., people at work in their daily lives, are stunning. If ever there were a candidate for IMAX, "Koyaanisqatsi" is it. In the Hopi language the word means "crazy life" or "life out of balance." That's pretty much the premise of the film. It'll make you cry.

The segment I have posted above is called "The Grid" and it is somewhat a climax for the film. Filled with overhead night shots of skyscrapers and traffic patterns, it shows the sinister side of our creation. The song used is called "Pruitt-Igoe" and is my favorite from the soundtrack. Even if you don't want to watch the whole thing, I suggest jumping to about 2:10 to hear the apocalyptic choir and damming string section. If you wanted to ride a burning chariot into hell, this would be the song to do it to.


  1. Great post. I'm excited to see the full film.

  2. you'd really dig it. try to watch it on a projector if possible.