G. This movie gets a G. Way to go, Powaqqatsi. You are the movie that proves that you can get a G Rating and be live action. It had to be you. I'd like to state that there is nudity in this movie. Sure, National Geographic style nudity, but I'm just stating facts.
DIRECTOR: Godfrey Reggio
Can I be mad? Am I allowed to be mad while reviewing this? I'm starting this review about fifteen minutes after the movie ended. With a movie without a formal narrative and no dialogue, my brain is in overdrive the entire time and I planned out what I was going to write in advance. I did my best to no-cell-phone this movie and I made it most of the way. The last twenty minutes, somehow, dragged more than the previous 1 hr 20, so I eventually crashed and just reloaded Facebook over and over in the background. No I'm not addicted. No you can't throw me in as a bad guy, representing the destruction of eastern culture at the hands of the West. Shut up. I'm just going to cheer myself up with the fact that this is a Cannon Film and giggle myself to sleep in my big American bed.
By itself, this movie might have a degree of validity. If this wasn't the second entry in the wacky anti-Western avant-garde trilogy, the message could be something cool. But this movie is a direct follow-up to a movie about humanity is destroying the world around them through its malaise, obesity, and technological dependence. I griped about it on end, but acknowledged that there's something there. Powaqqatsi, you ruined it for me. The big problem is the oversimplified worldview that this movie presents. The structure is very similar to Koyaanisqatsi. Show a bunch of pretty images to the music of Phillip Glass (but it's not all his this time!) and then follow it up with how modern innovation has completely ruined that innocence. That has some merit when it comes to environmentalism, but it doesn't hold as much weight as a commentary on the value of culture. This movie takes a parallel tone, but focuses more on how the third world has cultural beauty. The twist is the commercialism of the West and how it corrupts the Third World. It's a statement that he is making and I can't say that the West hasn't corrupted the rest of the world. It's just that the movie is full of images of celebrations going on worldwide. It has a Planet Earth feel to the whole things. Look how everyone is in celebration with each other, smiling and dancing in slow motion. The world is a great place, isn't it? Cut to a montage of American commercials and then show sad people in the Third World. C'mon. The part that really makes me mad is that it is such an oversimplification of everything. Americans have parades too. Americans have culture. Americans have sadness and misery and joy and the same things that everyone else has. If you filmed me at a parade in slow motion to something that sounds like the Chariots of Fire soundtrack, I'm sure it would be inspirational as well.
But every time I have gone abroad, I have seen such joy and sadness from within. Isn't this glorification of another culture just a well-intentioned version of the Noble Savage? By denying a culture its complexity and removing responsibility from them, isn't the movement being just a tad bit racist to them? There are good and bad people everywhere. Blaming all of their problems on Coca Cola just cheapens their struggle. I can't say that Coca Cola is helping anyone in the Third World, but just showing a montage of commercials and then sad people comes off as preachy and self-congratulating. The world has always been a beautiful and terrible place. What if we took awful people to task like we did in Koyaanisqatsi? Give it some depth, not just pretty pictures.
I have one more of these movies to go and I don't know what the message is going to be. I don't know how I'll necessarily be able to write one of these. Again, the movie is extremely well shot. I can't understate how this is in the vein of Planet Earth in terms of cinematography. The world is a crazy beautiful place and the movie sets a tone very quickly with its use of juxtaposed images. I'm playing the soundtrack again to try to recapture the mood of the movie and it is doing a good job. I just wish it wasn't so judgey and it was a bit more productive. I can't help but comparing this movie to a gallery piece that is just too on the nose with its message. Rather than slowly trying to shape its audience, it just shows a garbage can on fire with the word "America" written across the side. It could be really well done, but I'd prefer nuance.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.