Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word with a very specific meaning.

Actually it has several very specific meanings. It can be ‘crazy life’ or ‘life out of balance’ or more wordy still ‘life that needs to change from its current way of living’.

Godfrey Reggio's 1983 film of that name is a wordless, plotless montage of images scored by Philip Glass’s magpie music (pilfering from every source imaginable.) The film has been described as ‘beautiful but pointless.’ I think that ‘beautiful and besides the point’ describes it better.

It is the change in perspective that gives the film its power. A nuclear explosion in the form of a mushroom cloud is seen from a small desert cactus. We see the pavement view of a rising moon which is suddenly eclipsed by an office building. These images testify to the distorted power of the piece. It offers the planet holistically and then deconstructs it through natural and manmade totems each image adding to the overall unsettling of the whole.

The film raises as many questions as it answers. As Roger Ebert says "It has been hailed as a vast and sorrowful vision, but to what end? If the people in all those cars on all those expressways are indeed living crazy lives, their problem is not the expressway (which is all that makes life in L.A. manageable) but perhaps social facts such as unemployment, crime, racism, drug abuse and illiteracy -- issues so complicated that a return to nature seems like an elitist joke at their expense."

If it is an 'elitist joke' as Ebert contests, Woolly Days is not sure if anyone has seen the funny side of it.

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