Blu-ray, DVD Release: The Qatsi Trilogy

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: Dec. 11, 2012
Price: DVD $79.95, Blu-ray $79.95
Studio: Criterion


Filmmaker and artist, Godfrey Reggio is best known for his galvanizing trio of documentary-like “moviescape” films Koyaanisquatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi, which comprise The Qatsi Trilogy.

Astonishingly photographed, and featuring unforgettably hypnotic musical scores by Philip Glass (Mishima), the three films are immersive sensory experiences that meditate on the havoc humankind’s fascination with technology has wreaked on our world. From 1983’s Koyaanisqatsi (the title is a Hopi word that means “life out of balance”) to 1988’s Powaqqatsi (“life in transformation”) to 2002’s Naqoyqatsi (“life as war”), Reggio takes viewers on a journey from the ancient to the contemporary, from nature to industry and back again, all the while keeping our eyes wide with wonder.

Naqoyqatsi movie scene

Technology overruns the world in 2002's Naqoyqatsi.

Here’s a breakdown on the three films:

Koyaanisquatsi (1983)
A sensation when it was released in the early 1980s. Koyaanisquatsi wordlessly surveys the rapidly changing environments of the northern hemisphere. The director, cinematographer Ron Fricke, and composer Philip Glass created an astonishing collage, shuffling the viewer from one jaw-dropping vision to the next, moving from images of untouched nature to others depicting human beings’ increasing reliance on technology. Often using hypnotic time-lapse photography, Koyaanisqatsi looks at the world from an angle unlike any other.

Powaqqatsi (1988)
Five years after Reggio stunned audiences with Koyaanisqatsi, he joined forces again with Glass and other collaborators for a second chapter. Here, Reggio turns his sights on third world nations in the southern hemisphere. Forgoing the sped-up aesthetic of the first film, Powaqqatsi employs a meditative slow motion in order to reveal the everyday beauty of the traditional ways of life of native people in Africa, Asia, and South America, and to show how those cultures are being eroded as their environment is gradually taken over by industry. Powaqqatsi is the most intensely spiritual segment of Reggio’s trilogy.

Naqoyqatsi (2002)
Reggio takes on the digital revolution in the final chapter of his Qatsi Trilogy, Naqoyqatsi. With a variety of cinematic techniques, including slow motion, time-lapse, and computer-generated imagery, the film tells of a world that has completely transitioned from a natural environment to a human-made one. Globalization is complete, all of our interactions are technologically mediated, and all images are manipulated. From this (virtual) reality, Reggio sculpts a frenetic yet ruminative cinematic portrait of today’s world.

The Blu-ray and DVD editions of The Qatsi Trilogy contains the following features:

· New, restored high-definition digital transfers of all three films, approved by director Godfrey Reggio, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
· Essence of Life, an interview program with Reggio and composer Philip Glass on Koyaanisqatsi
· New interview with cinematographer Ron Fricke about Koyaanisqatsi
· Early forty-minute demo version of Koyaanisqatsi with a scratch soundtrack by Allen Ginsberg, along with a new introduction by Reggio
· New interview with Reggio about Koyaanisqatsi’s original visual concept, with behind-the-scenes footage
· Impact of Progress, an interview program with Reggio and Glass on their collaboration
· Inspiration and Ideas, an interview with Reggio about his greatest influences and teachers
· Anima Mundi (1992), Reggio’s twenty-eight-minute montage of images of over seventy animal species, scored by Glass
· Video afterword by Reggio on the trilogy
· The Making of “Naqoyqatsi,” a brief documentary featuring interviews with the production crew
· Panel discussion on Naqoyqatsi from 2003, with Reggio, Glass, editor Jon Kane, and music critic John Rockwell
· Music of “Naqoyqatsi,” an interview with Glass and cellist Yo-Yo Ma
· Television spots and an interview with Reggio relating to his 1970s multimedia privacy campaign in New Mexico
· Trailers
· A booklet featuring essays on the trilogy by film scholar Scott MacDonald, Rockwell, and author and environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Take a taste of the most recent film, Naqoyqatsi, with the following trailer:

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.