Ron Fricke

Qatsi Trilogy Criterion

The Qatsi series is made up of several compelling contradictions. On the one hand, the first film, Koyaanisqatsi (1983), was a unique-for-its-time, one-of-a-kind event; but on the other hand, that film used many of the same cinematic tactics and strategies common to “pure cinema” (or “absolute film”) projects that characterized experimental filmmaking in the 1920s, like Dziga Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera, Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mechanique, and the geometric filmmaking of Viking Eggeling. On the one hand, the Qatsi series is often celebrated as a series, or as an accomplishment characterized by a long-term vision realized across several films; but on the other hand, celebrations of the weight and accomplishment of this series are often relegated to the first film. Koyaanisqatsi’s sequels, Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002), are only mentioned a fraction as often as the landmark first film. On the one hand, this trilogy is one of the most radical critical critiques of capitalism and industry to arise from a relatively mainstream release; but on the other hand, the aesthetic “purity” of these films enables the major risk of a message lost. And on the one hand, Koyaanisqatsi launched the film careers of cinematographer Ron Fricke (whose most recent feature, Samsara, was exhibited in 70mm last year) and avant-garde composer Philip Glass; but on the other hand, these two have become considerably better known through their contributions to movies than the trilogy’s ambitious director, Godfrey Reggio. The Qatsi series is at once a single vision and an inspired […]

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Because so many great films have their world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s not surprising to see a lot of documentaries celebrate anniversaries around this time. For instance, Ron Fricke’s Baraka turns 20 years old today, having debuted at TIFF back on September 15, 1992, when the event was still known as the “Festival of Festivals.” It’s a special time to celebrate the non-narrative, non-verbal masterpiece, and not just because Fricke’s follow-up (he doesn’t consider it a sequel), Samsara, is currently wowing audiences around the country in a just-expanded theatrical release. Thanks to a fashionable interest in 70mm exhibition right now, Baraka (the first movie in twenty years shot in the Todd-AO 70mm format) also just finished up a week-long re-release at the Alamo Drafthouse and has screened recently in other cities in the format, as well. If you missed or are unable to see Baraka on the big screen, though, the film’s Blu-ray is a more than acceptable substitute. It was on FSR’s list of the 15 must-own discs of 2008, where it was called “the best Blu-ray transfer, ever.” That status possibly remains unchallenged. Fricke and producer Mark Magidson are perfectionists when it comes to digitally scanning their works. They even recommend seeing Samsara projected digitally as opposed to on celluloid, despite the fact that the new film was also shot in 70mm.

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Samsara

From the filmmakers behind Koyaanisqatsi (a movie I love but have to look up every time I need to spell it) and Baraka, the 5 year’s worth of filming that is Samsara is a meditation along the same massively gorgeous lines. Huge human set pieces, pristine imagery and sweeping music to underscore the complexity of our crazy, profound little lives. The film is in limited theaters August 24th, but we’ve got an exclusive look at the film that includes a stunning time-lapse attack on an opera house performing “La Scala.”

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In 1982, Ron Fricke wrote, edited and directed photography for Koyaanisqatsi, a movie that’s become a modern experimental classic that sought to create a pure sensory experience beyond what narrative storytelling could do. It’s the kind of film that audiences have to yield to, letting it wash over them like color-wrapped sound waves, and it seems likely that Samsara will be artistically related to Fricke’s early work. He re-teams here with Mark Magidson to create something that – if the movie delivers on its trailer – has to be seen and heard to be believed. The pair are most known for their work on the short doc Chronos and the feature Baraka, and their style is one that mashes moments together in order to find a sense of meaning. They’re incredibly good at it. Plus, the imagery! It’s amazing. The kind of stuff that steals your heart right out of your chest and makes you wish your whole body were made of eyeballs. See it and marvel:

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Countdown to the End: Chronos

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: Chronos (1985) The Plot: Filmed in 70mm IMAX, Chronos is a photographic travel to some of the most awe-inspiring locales, cultural monuments and natural formations found throughout planet Earth. Capturing some breathtaking visuals in crystal clear detail and editing the collection of long, uninterrupted stationary filming in time-lapse Director Ron Fricke takes the audience on an unforgettable exploration of some of our planet’s most intriguing sights.

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Culture Warrior

Synesthesia (syn-es-the-sia, Brit. syn-aes-the-sia): “The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” Synesthesia is a neurological disorder in which the experience of one sense motivates an involuntary association with another sense. Those who experience synesthesia, known as synesthetes, are able to either perceive letters or numbers as inherently colored, hear movement, or – in probably the best-known cases of the disorder – see music in the form of colors and/or associative shapes. Now, cognitive sciences seem, on the surface, to have little to do with the study of cinema, but the topic of synesthesia can be particularly helpful in understanding the way in which we interpret the interaction of the two senses most available in watching movies: the aural and the visual.

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