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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • 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
  • Public television interview with Reggio from 1989 about the trilogy
  • Anima Mundi (1992), Reggio's twenty-eight-minute montage of images of over seventy animal species, scored by Glass
  • Theatrical trailer

Powaqqatsi

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Godfrey Reggio
1988 | 99 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #641
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 11, 2012
Review Date: December 13, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Five years after Godfrey Reggio stunned audiences with Koyaanisqatsi,, he joined forces again with composer Philip 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. This is the most intensely spiritual segment of Reggio's philosophical and visually remarkable Qatsi Trilogy.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Powaqqatsi, the second film in Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy, is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer on a dual-layer disc.

Again, similar to what we got with Criterion’s Blu-ray of Koyaanisqatsi, we get another filmic presentation that’s clean, free of artifacts, and undeniably sharp. Every detail is crisply rendered and leaps out from the screen. There is never a soft moment or any moment that comes off even remotely fuzzy. Colours are again bright, vivid, and very life like. Black levels are strong with excellent shadow delineation and details remain easy to see during darker moments.

I actually don’t recall a single blemish in the transfer so the restoration job is very impressive. Grain is present and cleanly rendered yet isn’t at all heavy. Overall I can’t imagine the image looking any better than what we get here. It’s such a lovely looking presentation, cleaned up nicely, looking very much like a projected film.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Similar to Criterion’s Koyaanisqatsi, Philip Glass’ score is presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. And again we get an absolutely stunning and beautiful presentation with the music completely enveloping and moving around the viewer. Bass is sharp but never overbearing and the range of the track is stunning, as is clarity. I hate using a cliché but at times it almost feels like the orchestra could be right there. An absolute stunner.

10/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The supplements for Powaqqatsi starts with a feature found previously on the MGM DVD, Impact of Progress, a 19-minute piece containing interviews with director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. In it Reggio talks about the meaning of the word “powaqqatsi” and how it relates to the themes within the film. He addresses a few criticisms and talks about certain sequences. Glass comments on how the score was done this time around, with the score apparently written first and then the film, as I understood it, shot around it with the cameraman listening to the appropriate song while filming. The two then talk about how the idea of a trilogy came about and Reggio gets a little into Naqoyqatsi (which would have been coming out around the time the interviews were filmed) and then the difficulties in getting the third film financed, despite the fact the first two films did pretty well financially. Overall an engaging interview with some interesting insights.

Inspiration and Ideas runs under 19-minutes and presents a new interview with Reggio talking about his various influences. They include Ivan Illich, Leopold Kohr, Hopi Traditional Leader David Monongye, Jacques Ellul, Guy Debord, and director Luis Buñuel. He talks about the various books these minds wrote, or films in the case of Buñuel, and it’s easy to see how their influences made it into Reggio’s series of films. It’s also amusing listening to him recall showing his work to a few of these people, Illich apparently trashing Koyaanisqatsi. It proves to be a fascinating addition, delving deeper into the themes within the films of the trilogy.

There’s an 18-minute segment from a 1989 episode of a public access show produced in New Mexico called ¡Colores!. This episode features one V.B. Price interviewing the director, talking about his ”Qatsi Trilogy”, which was still 13-or-so years away in being completed. Reggio covers the themes of technology and its effects on people and cultures, again addressing the possible hypocrisy in using a medium like film when criticizing technology. He talks a bit about Hopi culture and how the philosophies and ideals are presented in the films, and even mentions Naqoyqatsi, which would have only been an idea at the time. He concludes with his thoughts on the “nature of technological order” and the “death of nature”. Some repeated material but another feature worth watching.

Criterion then includes Reggio’s 1992 short film Anima Mundi, complete with score by Philip Glass, which, for 29-minutes, basically shows various animals in their natural habitats in a similar delivery to the Qatsi films. The disc concludes with Cannon’s (!?) theatrical trailer for the film.

I was surprised how light this one feels in terms of supplements, especially since Koyannisqatsi feels so loaded, but it offers some decent material on the film, Reggio’s influences, and the trilogy as a whole.

7/10

CLOSING

The supplements are probably the weakest to be found in the set, though still informative. But this disc easily presents the strongest audio and video within the set. Like Koyaanisqatsi this film is a prime candidate for a Blu-ray release and Criterion doesn’t disappoint. I’d even say the disc is demo worthy of the format.


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