Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baraka [1992] - Full Documentary

Baraka is a 1992 non-narrative film directed by Ron Fricke. The title Baraka means blessing in a multitude of languages, deriving from the Arabic بركة [1], descending from a common Semitic ancestor and cognate to the Hebrew Baruch. The film is often compared to Koyaanisqatsi, the first of the Qatsi films by Godfrey Reggio for which Fricke was cinematographer. Baraka was the first in over twenty years to be photographed in the 70mm Todd-AO format.  

Baraka has no plot, no storyline, no actors, no dialogue nor any voice-over. Instead, the film uses themes to present new steps and evoke emotion through pure cinema. Baraka is a kaleidoscopic, global compilation of both natural events and by fate, life and activities of humanity on Earth. Baraka's subject matter has some similarities to Koyaanisqatsi—including footage of various landscapes, churches, ruins, religious ceremonies, and cities thrumming with life, filmed using time-lapse photography in order to capture the great pulse of humanity as it flocks and swarms in daily activity. The film features a number of long tracking shots through various settings, including Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng: over photos of the people involved, past skulls stacked in a room, to a spread of bones. Like Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka compares natural and technological phenomena. It also seeks a universal cultural perspective: a shot of an elaborate tattoo on a bathing Japanese yakuza precedes a view of tribal paint.  

Twenty chapters of this film spread over three main sections A1-A3: 
 A1: Chap. 01-07: Nature untouched by man – indigenous peoples, their rituals as part of nature being integrated. Chap. 01 – Snow and Ice Chap. 02 – Temples Chap. 03 – Light and Shadow Chap. 04 – The volcano Chap. 05 – Galápagos Islands Chap. 06 – Iguazu Falls Chap. 07 – Africa 

A2: Chap. 08-15: Burglary of technology in nature – Uprooted human interaction with nature and with his kind – War and concentration camps. Chap. 08 – Cigarettes Chap. 09 – Public Bathing Chap. 10 – Traffic Chaos Chap. 11 – Mass Production Chap. 12 – Madness Chap. 13 – Aircraft boneyard Chap. 14 – Shadows of the Past Chap. 15 – Terracotta Army 

A3: Chap. 16-20: Old, still living cultures – The architectural remains of past civilizations – Transience and lasting of all human efforts. Chap. 16 – Living on the river Ganges Chap. 17 – Sea of Clouds Chap. 18 – The Kaaba Chap. 19 – Starry sky Chap. 20 – Closing credits  

 The score by Michael Stearns and featuring music by Dead Can Dance, L. Subramaniam, Ciro Hurtado, Inkuyo, Brother and David Hykes, is noticeably different from the minimalist one provided by Philip Glass for Koyaanisqatsi. The film was produced by Mark Magidson, who also produced and directed the film Toward the Within, a live concert performance by Dead Can Dance.  

Following previous DVD releases, in 2007 the original 65 mm negative was re-scanned at 8K (a horizontal resolution of 8192 pixels) with equipment designed specifically for Baraka at FotoKem Laboratories. The automated 8K film scanner, operating continuously, took more than three weeks to finish scanning more than 150,000 frames (taking approximately 12–13 seconds to scan each frame), producing over 30 terabytes of image data in total. After a 16-month digital intermediate process, including a 96 kHz/24 bit audio remaster by Stearns for the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack of the film, the result was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in October, 2008. Project supervisor Andrew Oran says this remastered Baraka is "arguably the highest quality DVD that's ever been made".[2] Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert describes the Blu-ray release as "the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined."  

A sequel to Baraka, Samsara, made by the same filmmakers, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and will be released internationally in later summer of 2012. Also shot in 70mm, "Samsara" explores an arguably darker, updated version of many of the same themes as Baraka.  

Baraka has a 83% of Rotten Tomatoes out of 18 reviews. Roger Ebert included the film in his Great Movies list.

Baraka - Full Documentary

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chronos [1985] - Full Documentary

Chronos is a 1985 abstract film directed by Ron Fricke, created with custom-built time-lapse cameras. Originally released in IMAX theaters, it is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, HD DVD, and for free on Hulu and YouTube.  

Chronos is 42 minutes long and has no actors or dialog. The soundtrack consists of a single continuous piece by composer Michael Stearns. Filmed in dozens of locations on five continents, the film relates to the concept of time passing on different scales -- the bulk of the film covers the history of civilization, from pre-history to Egypt to Rome to Late Antiquity to the rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the modern era. It centers on European themes but not exclusively. Other time scales include the passing of seasons, and the passing of night and day, and the passing shadows of the sun in an afternoon to the passing of people on the street. These themes are intermingled with symbolic meaning.  

Chronos shares its particular style with the film Koyaanisqatsi (1983), for which Ron Fricke was the cinematographer, as well as his later films Sacred Site and Baraka (1992). The theme of the film is "[t]he celebration of life", and does not include the themes of technology as the culprit for society or "life out of balance", which were present in Koyaanisqatsi. American Cinematographer described the film as "a musical poem praising the evolution of Western man from Cairo to Los Angeles." The film was produced by Canticle Films, a production company founded by Fricke. Funding for Chronos came from the seed money acquired through the publicity surrounding the production of Koyaanisqatsi. Fricke designed and built a 65 mm camera for the film, which included a motion control system for the film's special effects. The director also used the system in his later films. Michael Stearns, while composing the soundtrack for the film, used a custom-made instrument called "The Beam" to generate many of the sounds he required. The Beam was 12 feet (3.7 m) long, made of extruded aluminum with 24 piano strings of gauge 19-22. The name of the film comes from the Ancient Greek word χρόνος, khronos, which means time and is also the source to many modern terms related to time, such as chronology, synchronous etc.  

International OMNI-MAX Film Festival: "Grand Prize Winner"  

Chronos - 1985

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Koyaanisqatsi [1982]- Full Documentary

Koyaanisqatsi - [1982] Koyaanisqatsi also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke.

The film consists primarily of slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and many natural landscapes across the United States. The visual tone poem contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music. Reggio explains the lack of dialogue by stating "it's not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It's because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live." In the Hopi language, the word Koyaanisqatsi means "unbalanced life". The film is the first in the Qatsi trilogy of films: it is followed by Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002). The trilogy depicts different aspects of the relationship between humans, nature, and technology. Koyaanisqatsi is the best known of the trilogy and is considered a cult film. However, because of copyright issues, the film was out of print for most of the 1990s.

Synopsis The first image in the film is of a pictogram. The section shown depicts several tall darkly-shadowed figures standing near a taller figure adorned with a crown. The next image is a close-up of a rocket during liftoff. The film fades into a shot of a desolate desert landscape. From there, it progresses to footage of various natural environmental phenomena such as waves and clouds.

The film's introduction to human involvement in the environment is a low aerial shot of choppy water, cutting to a similar shot of rows of cultivated flowers. After aerial views of monumental rock formations partly drowned by a lake, we see a large mining truck causing billows of black dust. This is followed by shots of power lines in the desert. Man's continued involvement in the environment is depicted through images of mining operations, oil fields, a power plant, a dam, and atomic bomb detonations in a desert. Following the atomic bomb detonations, the next sequence begins with a shot of sunbathers on a beach, then pans to a power plant in the background. Shots of traffic patterns are seen during rush hour on a freeway and a shot of a large parking lot. This is followed with stock footage of Soviet tanks lined up in rows and a military aircraft, and a aircraft carrier.

Time-lapse photography of shadows of clouds are seen moving across the skyscrapers. Shots of various housing projects in disrepair, and includes footage of the decay and demolition of a housing project. The sequence ends with footage of the destruction of large buildings. A time-lapse shot of a crowd of people who appear to be waiting in a line. This is followed by shots of people walking along streets in slow motion.
The next sequence begins with shots of buildings and a shot of a sunset reflected in the glass of a skyscraper. The sequence uses time-lapse photography of the activity of modern life. The events captured in this sequence involve people interacting with modern technology. The first shots are traffic patterns as seen from skyscrapers at night. This is followed by a shot of the moon passing behind a skyscraper. The next shots are closer shots of cars on a highway. The sun rises over the city and we see people hurrying to work. The film shows at regular speed the operation of machines packaging food. People are shown sorting mail, sewing jeans, manufacturing televisions and doing other jobs with the use of modern technology. A shot of hot dogs being sent down rows of conveyors is followed by a shot of people moving up escalators. The frenetic speed and pace of the cuts and background music do not slow as shots of modern leisure are shown. People eat, play, shop and work at the same speed. The sequence begins to come full circle as the manufacturing of automobiles in an assembly line factory is shown.

More shots of highway traffic are shown, this time in daylight. The film shows the movement of cars, shopping carts, and televisions on an assembly line, and elevators moving from first person perspective. The film then shows clips from various television shows being channel surfed in fast motion. The film, in slow motion, then shows several people reacting to being candidly filmed on the street. The camera stays on them until the moment when they acknowledge its presence by looking directly at it. The sequence then shows cars moving much faster than they were moving before.

Pictures of microchips and satellite photography of metropolitan cities are shown, making a comparison between their layouts. Various shots of people are seen from all walks of modern life, from beggars to debutantes. The final sequence shows footage of a Saturn V rocket lifting off, followed by footage of the May 1962 explosion of an Atlas-Centaur rocket. Here, the camera follows a flaming rocket engine and a white vapor trail or smoke against a blue sky as the rocket plummets to earth. The film ends with another shot of the pictogram.

Production - Background
In 1972, Godfrey Reggio, of the Institute for Regional Education, or IRE, was working on a media campaign in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The campaign involved invasions of privacy and the use of technology to control behavior. As opposed to creating public service announcements, which Reggio felt "had no visibility," advertising spots were purchased for television, radio, newspapers, and billboards. Over 30 billboards were used for the campaign, and one design featured a close-up of the human eye, which Godfrey described as a "horrifying image." To produce the television commercials, the IRE hired cinematographer Ron Fricke who worked on the project for two years. The television ads aired during prime time programming and became so popular that viewers would call the television stations to learn when the next advertisement would be aired. Godfrey described the two year campaign as "extraordinarily successful," and as a result, Ritalin (methylphenidate) was eliminated as a behavior-modifying drug in many New Mexico school districts. But after the campaign ended, the ACLU eventually withdrew its sponsorship, and the IRE unsuccessfully attempted to raise millions of dollars at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. The institute only had $40,000 left in their budget, and Reggio was unsure how to use the small amount of funds. Fricke insisted to Reggio that the money could be used to produce a film, which led to the production of Koyaanisqatsi.

Koyaanisqatsi - The Grid [1982]
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