Picks and Pans Review: Koyaanisqatsi

updated 07/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The title (pronounced Co-yon-uh-SCOT-si) is Hopi for "life out of balance." And this extraordinary 87-minute visual tone poem on nature, man and technological self-destruction is a remarkable argument that a catastrophic lack of balance is pervasive in modern America. The film is less a documentary than a series of impressionistic images—from clouds and dunes to Los Angeles freeways and Manhattan streets. The concept and overall vision belong to director Godfrey Reggio, the hypnotic score to avant-garde composer Philip Glass, and the exquisite photography to cinematographer Ron Fricke. Reggio, 43, is based in Santa Fe, N.Mex., and sometimes his vistas are spread across mountain ranges, while at other moments they're condensed in the experiences written on a single face in close-up. There are scenes of Laundromats and video-game parlors in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco. There is man-made destruction—nuclear tests, for instance—juxtaposed with nature sequences. The film is, in visual impact, more akin to Lucas and Spielberg than to documentaries. "The idea was to look at ordinary daily life from an extraordinary point of view," Reggio said recently. "I want people to escape to reality, rather than from reality, as they do with other films. My film is a little like a cat that barks." His work is, indeed, an uncanny kind of cinematic beast, original and fascinating. (No rating)

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