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We Stood Like Kings’ New Soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi

We Stood Like Kings are releasing a new soundtrack for Godfrey Reggio’s impressionistic documentary Koyaanisqatsi.

Given that Phillip Glass’ iconic soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi is almost impossible to separate from Reggio’s images and narrative, it is certainly an ambitious project. However, We Stood Like Kings certainly have form in this area. Formed more than a half-a-decade ago in Brussels, We Stood Like Kings have a long history of adapting new soundtracks for classic films.

USA 1982 is the third in a trilogy of such albums; USSR 1926 was a live soundtrack to Dziga Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World and Berlin 1927 was a live soundtrack to Walther Ruttmann’s Die Sinfonie der Großstadt. The decision to wed USA 1982 to Koyaanisqatsi is intriguing. Reggio’s exploration of contemporary society is a rich visual odyssey, one conveying without dialogue or even title cards.

In many ways, it lends itself to this approach, inviting the audience to interpret the images on their own terms. The use of an alternative soundtrack feels very much like an organic extension of this approach; how might the audience’s interpretation change with soundtrack, how is meaning altered by something other than the image itself?

You can find more information on We Stood Like Kings and USA 1982 on their website. You can also see a short trailer below. It is released September 22 from Kapitän Platte Records.


Non-Review Review: Baraka

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. It will be getting a 20th anniversary re-release this year.

Released in 1992, it’s easy to consider Baraka as something of a spiritual successor to Koyaanisqatsi, a film which gave birth to an entire subgenre of non-narrative feature films designed to offer us insight into the working of our planet. It’s a natural comparison, as director Ron Ficke served as director of photography on that monumental film, and he clearly owes a debt to Godfrey Reggio’s masterpiece. However, I think there’s a substantive difference between how the two directors approach their subject matter, and the end result. While Reggio offers a more fascinating study of large-scale systems, Fricke manages a strange intimacy amidst his vast scale – there’s something considerably more human to Baraka, and I think that comfortably sets the movie apart. It looks as good as it did on initial release twenty years ago, and it still packs as much punch – even if it never looks quite as sharp as its sequel, Samsara.

Crazy world...

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Non-Review Review: Samsara

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

Director Ron Fricke first came to attention as the cinematographer on Godfrey Reggio’s groundbreaking Koyaanisqatsi. His contributions to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith not withstanding, he has somewhat followed in the footsteps of Reggio, offering up a series of films without character or narrative that explore man’s relationship with the world around him. Samsara is another entry in the canon that includes Chronos and Sacred Site, and is a direct sequel to Baraka. It goes almost without saying that Fricke’s cinematography is transcendental. Set to music by frequent collaborator Michael Stearns (with Lisa Gerrard and Marcello de Francisci), there’s no denying that Fricke has a canny and incredible eye for beauty. That said, Samsara does suffer a bit from being heavy-handed with its central themes and ideas – quite an accomplishment for a film with no dialogue.

Armed with ideas…

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Non-Review Review: Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s Tree of Life stems from the beginning of the universe to “the end of time.”It’s hard to imagine any film with a similar scope, let alone one focused on the troublesome relationship between a nuclear family in the mid-to-late-twentieth century. The easiest way to summarise Malick’s epic yet intimate drama is describe it as a profound meditation on the history of the cosmos, reflected through a child’s coming-of-age tale. Confused? I don’t blame you. I’m slightly confused and I just watched the damn thing.

A beautiful sequence of images...

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Telling Vision: The Digital Age and Freedom…

We’ve been digital now for about five years. I have to admit, as much as I might have admired the scavenger sensibility that standard ten-channel Irish television might have taught me, I find it hard to imagine what it must have been like. It’s like the way I can’t imagine a world without easy-to-carry mobile phones, even though I lived in it for quite a while, or I can’t remember what the world was like without access to the information super-highway (though I do remember when we used to use dial-up internet… oh the pain). Digital television is a wonderful invention, and one that I truly treasure. It’s been heard so often that it’s become something of a truism to remark that we get 999 channels, but there’s never anything to watch… but I think that people who feel like that simply aren’t trying hard enough.

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Non-Review Review: Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is a word that comes from the language of the Hopi. It’s handily translated at the end of the film, with one of the meanings lending the film its unofficial subtitle: “life out of balance”. Brought to the screen by director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass (not that you’d know it from the film’s sparse opening credits which simply identify the film as “a Francis Ford Coppola production”), it’s safe to say that Koyaanisqatsi is one of a kind. Or, given the two sequels, one of three of a kind, but that’s still quite impressive.

Let there be light...

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