Avocado Weekly Movie Thread (9/17)

Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread! Come here to talk about movies!

Today’s bonus prompt (care of PSF): what is your favorite movie to put on to fall asleep to?

My wife’s answer would easily have been the original King Kong. Back when we were living in our condo, we would have the DVD in an almost permanent spot in the player to help her when she was having a difficult time nodding off. Our joke was that she would fall asleep so quickly that she never actually got to see King Kong himself. Just the idea that the big ape was there waiting for her was enough to put her mind at ease. I think it may be because the movie has such a low-key intro (the boat ride to Skull island) and a promised payoff (the appearance of Kong himself) that you have the powerful dual challenge of trying to stay awake through the boring parts and a goal you’re trying to work towards.

For me, though… it’s the Ron Fricke triple play of tone poems: Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka, and Samsara. These movies are technically documentaries. You typically see one or all these of these movies on “Best Documentaries” lists. I reject this hypothesis, though. In practice, the Ron Fricke films are really long-form music videos. Short film snippets are paired to a score to form an artwork that’s low on narrative but high on theme. The disjointed nature of these films, which flit from one ephemeral image to the next, also breaks down any attempts at maintaining mental coherence.

Koyaanisqatsi (directed by Geoffrey Reggio but with cinematography by Ron Fricke) is probably my number one pick, mainly for the Philip Glass music. By the time we get to the time lapse of clouds skirting across the screen I’m pretty much nodding off. I think the absolute furthest I get is the building implosions. It’s off to a deep slumber only to wake up to the familiar full moon of the DVD menu.

By the way, this fun tidbit from Wikipedia:

In 1972, Godfrey Reggio, of the Institute for Regional Education (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.

I love this movie dearly… but boy was that an unsuccessful campaign.

Baraka is more visually engaging. The film flows from one image to the next in brilliant color. There are nature shots that put the Planet Earth documentary to shame and long loving landscape shots of places in the world that don’t look like they should still exist in the 21st Century. The score by Michael Stearns is a little less intrustive, but surprisingly won’t get me to nod off the same way Glass’ nearly hypnotic score does.

(NOTE: I once played this late at night when I had my in-laws over, and halfway through they went, “OK, we get it” and went straight to bed.)

I break out Samsara when I get a little tired of the other two, but it is nowhere near as restful. After all, there are interludes with weird performance artists and Filipino dancing prisoners that provide just a little too much narrative coherence to truly tire me out. Also I’m pretty sure the guy in the mud face gave me nightmares once.


Some nights you don’t want to see that before you drift off.

But what of Reggio’s true sequels to Koyaanisqatsi? I can’t speak to Naqoyqatsi, since I haven’t seen it yet. However, I do have Powaqqatsi on DVD. While the Philip Glass score helps me down into slumbertime, often I find myself missing that sweet Ron Fricke cinematography. I realized I loved how he could linger on a scene for the right amount of time to draw a sense of pensiveness and meaning from rhythmic patterns emerging from chaos…. patterns that lull you into the sweet embrace of the Sandman.

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