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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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