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Laramie Movie Scope: Visitors

Experimental film has facial closeups

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 20, 2015 -- This experimental film by Godfrey Reggio, like some of his other films, “Koyaanisqatsi” (1982) “Powaqqatsi” (1988) and “Naqoyqatsi” (2002) is a non-verbal, meditative audio-visual experience not easily described in words, but I will give it a go.

The film opens and closes with the face of Triska, a female lowland gorilla from the Bronx Zoo, which stares right you with a gaze that looks more intelligent than some politicians you see on TV. This is a meditation on the media. You stare at the movie and it stares right back at you. This is brought home in one of the film's final scenes, where the camera pulls back from Triska's face to show an audience watching Triska on a big screen, and it becomes clear, you are part of a bigger audience.

The film shows us many human faces of various ages and races. It also shows us buildings, trees, swamps, nature intertwined with architecture, weeds and trees growing up through an old amusement park, abandoned buildings, abandoned art. None of this is shown at normal speed. It is mostly shown in slow motion, but there is also time-lapse photography showing clouds speeding by, moving past buildings.

While most of the adult faces in the film are passive (most don't even blink) the children's faces show more expressions, apparently because they are playing video games (a meditation on human interaction with technology) because the reactions of the children to the games are in slow motion, they look odd. There are also some crowd footage of people, apparently walking down a sidewalk, in slow-motion of course.

One of my favorite scenes (there are 74 scenes in the film) looks to be a group of people watching some kind of sporting event. We see their reaction to a score. A man and woman sitting near each other are evidently fans of opposing teams. The man cheers, while the woman sulks.

All this is seen with a backdrop of music by Philip Glass, a frequent collaborator with this director. The music complements the images nicely. The images are shot in ultra high definition (known as “4K”) double the standard 2K definition shown in most theaters. A number of theaters have 4K projectors, but many do not.

The version I saw was an online screener (1280x532) upscaled to 1080 lines of vertical resolution (standard HD) with the aid of a blu-ray player and projected on a big screen with a HD projector. The audio was converted from stereo to surround with a pro logic-type system. This was viewed on my home theater system. It looked and sounded pretty good, but a DVD or blu-ray of this film would provide better audio and video quality.

This is a slow moving film, but it does have a few abrupt cuts. I was glad for the opportunity to back up and watch some segments and second or third time to catch everything I could. Seeing this in a theater, particularly in 4K video, would be something else again. There are some striking images in this film, but it is slow-moving. This is mainly for people who have patience and who want to contemplate while watching. Fans of Godfrey Reggio's films mentioned above will probably also like it. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)