Thursday, January 23, 2014

Visitors (2013)

At the time this posts three months will have passed since I saw the film and wrote it up.  I'm not sure why I'm telling you this except to add that after the film Peter Gutierrez and myself went out for coffee and cake and two hours later I had all but forgotten the film.

VISITORS is Godfrey Reggio's feature length follow up to the Sqatsi trilogy (KOYAANISQATSI, POWAQQATSI and NAQOYQATSI). Unlike the earlier films this one is focused almost entirely on the human form, and the face in particular.

Book-ended with shots of a gorilla and the moon, VISITORS is a tone poem completely sans narrative. As Reggio said before the film this is film about having a mood inflicted upon you rather than narrative. The stark black and white images, when married to the Philip Glass score occasionally create deeply moving moments- faces real much that seems to be hidden, hands isolated in darkness become some new form of animal.trees stand out in weird relief to their landscape. You may have seen something similar but some of this is truly seeing the world with new eyes. When it clicks it will bring tears to your eyes.

And when it doesn't you'll wish it would just end. Running a brief 87 minutes the film eventually runs out of steam. Somewhere in the final half hour the film, which had been chugging along fine for much of it's running time, begins to sputter. The film which had been focused on humanity begins to drift off to the swamps of Louisiana. While this allows for some stunning monochromatic images, the film suddenly feels like its lost it's way. I began to wonder where it was going. By the time the film ended I was feeling lost and a drift, it was as if Reggio didn't know how to get to the ending.

I ended up liking the film but not loving it.

You'll forgive me for not saying more, but this is a film that kind of defies description. I can tell you what the film is but I can't tell you what the film really is. Reggio's description of a poem is dead on. This is a personal meditation on humanity and not a film in a conventional sense- think what Bela Tarr might have done if he just shot faces or people  and played Philip Glass music. This is not for all tastes, most people are going to be bored to tears with the long takes on staring faces. You're either going to click with it or you won't, if you don't you'll either walk out or be dead asleep. I largely clicked with it.

To be honest I have no idea what to really say about the film-pieces of it are amazing, pieces of it are cliche. It is unlike almost every other film out there- and even though I have reservations I thank god that something like this exists because it is so damn unique.

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