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  1. #1
    DrPablo's Avatar
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    Ron Fricke, Godfrey Reggio, Qatsi trilogy, time lapse films

    I've recently watched the unbelievable Qatsi trilogy by Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi), filmed by Ron Fricke and scored by Philip Glass, as well as the films Baraka and Chronos filmed by Ron Fricke.

    These are not really movies -- there is no narrative and no actors. They're stunning, arresting images and sequences filmed in slow motion and time lapse from all over the world, and brilliantly scored.

    They seem to encompass a lot of the aesthetic debates we have about "truth" and "message" in photography -- and in a way they seem to have more continuity with photography than they do with filmmaking.

    It almost feels like the future of the photographic art -- like it takes photography to its logical next step, which is creating narrative through image alone.

    It makes me want to create the same kind of images with my still photography -- and in a couple cases I feel like I have -- but it challenges me to look through things rather than at things. It sort of subverts the 'transparency' discussion and applies it to the world itself rather than the images.

    Anyone else seen them, or have similar feelings?
    Paul

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    I've not seen those but at Arles I saw an amazing dissolve sequence, to music, by Didier Conchonnet, of bilaterally symmetrical images of the natural world: mirrored by a vertical central line. I saw statues, faces, demons, gods... As I said to M. Conchonnet afterwards, if anyone had described it to me, I'd not have gone to see it; but happening upon it by chance, it was stunning, completely different from anything else I have ever seen. It sounds like a similar experience to yours, not in detail, but in emotional content.

  3. #3
    George Papantoniou's Avatar
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    Paul how old were you in 1983 ? I was 16, went to see Koyaanisqatsi and stayed in a dreamlike state for a few weeks after... It's the only film that I stayed in the theater to watch for a second time in a row...

    I was a little disapointed by Powaqatsi and a bit more by Naqoyqatsi. I thought they made the third one just to get the extra cash...

    Baraka was nothing like the other ones. Interesting, but a bit too "catchy" (I hope I got the right word for it). The images were nice, but they didn't really make sense.

    What's funny is that even today you see commercials copying Koyaanisqatsi, probably made by young directors that have just discovered it on DVD...

    PS some advice to the young (and old, dear Roger) who have never watched the films in question: don't rent and watch them on a TV screen. You won't get the whole image. It'll be like watching fine prints on a PC monitor...

  4. #4
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    I first saw Koyaanisqatsi at the local arthouse theater a few years ago, and to me the most powerful things were the theme music and the time lapse shots of the space capsule falling to the ground.

    I think they're a good example of the "hyper" approach to realism: by using acceleration, decelerations, rewinding and forwarding the image, by mixing static with movement, they show another reality, another way of conceptualizing the world. I find it actually has scientific overtones: Marey, Muybridges, and countless other scientists who use these cinematographic/photographic techniques to study nature.

    It's as if they can render visually the thought process of abstraction. When you see a flower bloom a few minutes after having seeing it closed, you have to make the mental jump to connect the two. With time-lapse, you are actually seeing it, and you experience this continuity rather than positing it.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Papantoniou View Post
    PS some advice to the young (and old, dear Roger) who have never watched the films in question: don't rent and watch them on a TV screen. You won't get the whole image. It'll be like watching fine prints on a PC monitor...
    Point fully taken, young George. Now I'll probably spend YEARS trying to find the damn' things, with recommendations like this from you and Paul.

    Cheers,

    Roger

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    I think I've watched Koyaanisqatsi no fewer than 50 times....and perhaps a good deal more. I first saw it on public TV when my younger son (25 now) was a very little guy of 3 or 4. He used to sing: Skatsiiiiiiii with the film which was both charming and hilarious (he was totally unaware of himself doing it.). I now own a DVD of that and Powaaqatsi; I've never encountered the third film at all.

    I think Koyaanisqatsi is the most singularly successful, organic blend of music and film I've ever seen. It was also my introduction to minimalism and the music of Philip Glass. I soon learned to appreciate Steve Reich and John Adams as well.

    It's so utterly dynamic and temporal that that it 'controls' the way time unfolds, and that is a wonderful accomplishment. What it doesn't do is inform the way I see as a still photographer.
    John Voss

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  7. #7
    braxus's Avatar
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    I saw Koyaanisqatsi when I was in my early teens and Baraka later on. Both great films. Ron Fricke is a master at images and I would hire him to do a film. I heard he was used in Star Wars 3 to shoot the volcano shots used in the movie.

  8. #8
    phaedrus's Avatar
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    Those three movies live by their Philip Glass score, I think Koyaanisqatsi was the first one to be cut to music very strictly. That's not to diminish their visual impact, though.
    I see a progression of the zeitgeist in them, the first one is about angst in the fully industrialized western society, the second one about eastern societies moving into a globalized world, the third about the parallel world of the internet and media.

  9. #9
    DrPablo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Papantoniou View Post
    Paul how old were you in 1983 ?
    I turned 9 that year. My film world was all about Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones.

    I was a little disapointed by Powaqatsi and a bit more by Naqoyqatsi.
    Powaqatsi is really striking to me -- there is so much humanity in it.

    Baraka was nothing like the other ones. Interesting, but a bit too "catchy" (I hope I got the right word for it). The images were nice, but they didn't really make sense.
    I think it's about beauty, and all the myriad forms it can take. It's a bit less polemical than the qatsi movies (if that's possible for something with no words). The images and cinematography in Baraka are jaw-dropping. Chronos is another Ron Fricke one, only about 45 minutes. It's a bit more frenetic and there are clearly some sequences made from the cutting room floor of the qatsi movies, but some of the scenes, especially in cathedrals, are memorable.

    PS some advice to the young (and old, dear Roger) who have never watched the films in question: don't rent and watch them on a TV screen. You won't get the whole image. It'll be like watching fine prints on a PC monitor...
    I've had the DVDs for all 5 of these for a few years, but I didn't watch them until now -- now that we have a 50 inch plasma TV with surround sound. That was good enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by jovo
    I think Koyaanisqatsi is the most singularly successful, organic blend of music and film I've ever seen. It was also my introduction to minimalism and the music of Philip Glass. I soon learned to appreciate Steve Reich and John Adams as well.
    Yes, I agree. In one of the bonus features Philip Glass talks about how in TV commercials music is perfectly timed with events in the commercial -- and that perfect unity prevents the viewer from disengaging, from inserting themselves.

    Glass' arpeggios can sometimes get a little repetitive for me, but in the qatsi movies they're masterful. His operas are amazing (esp Akhnaten), and his CD Aguas da Amazonia (scored for the Brazilian group Uakti) is brilliant.

    What it doesn't do is inform the way I see as a still photographer.
    I see some commonality with how I try to visualize and present certain subjects in still photography. These are my two best examples.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 71415447.jpg   60757754.jpg  
    Paul

  10. #10
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Paul, your second picture made me think of this one by Vincent Laforet:

    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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