A movie made with leftist intentions but having the opposite effect

Bill Carpenter writes:

You once mentioned Koyaanisquatsi as an example of films in which the artistic integrity of the producers causes the film to convey a truer message than the producers ostensibly espouse. On that hint I am watching it again for the first time in the almost thirty years since it came out. Subtitled “Life Out of Balance,” it is packaged as a criticism of modern American life as a mass industrial society, but, as you intimated, it conveys the opposite. By its magnificent cinematography, including its copious use of time-lapse and slow motion, it assimilates the work of modern man to the sublimity of nature. It seems to be animated by reverence, awe, and sometimes humor, not the peevish sententiousness suggested by the subtitle. The grandeur of mass processes, both natural and technological, seem to reduce our individual existences to antlike proportions, but nonetheless we occasionally glimpse the miracle and mystery of human personality. The film movingly declares that, from certain points of view, divine or angelic perhaps, our minuscule existence is as grand and miraculous as anything in creation. “O work of man!” it exclaims, and our works, despite everything, are awesome. A fit sentiment with which to celebrate Labor Day. The film is a masterpiece, and getting Philip Glass to compose a score (instead of having someone select favorite passages from pop and classical repertoires) was a brilliant stroke.

LA replies:

Thanks for the wonderful comment.

I saw that movie in 1983. The lady I saw it with was German, and a Marxist. When we walked out of the movie, she had taken it “straight,” as a condemnation of modern society, and was serious about it. I had taken it as an expression of the divine power underlying existence, and was in a state of exultation.

Kevin V. writes:

I was so happy to see that you were moved by the film Koyaanisquatsi and the score by Glass. Until I read your post, I had thought I was the only right winger on earth who was moved by both. Glass is certainly interesting in that respect. Though by any measure he is a cookie-cutter modern artist, and, thus, a leftist, it appears to me that his art is such that it touches something beyond that, despite himself. I find myself wondering if the man is really a leftist, but that is probably wishful thinking.

A few years ago, I was in Amsterdam and he was at the Musiktheatre that night. It stuck me between the eyes when I saw the posters for the concert around town because I had at that time been in Amsterdam only twice, and the time before I had spent the last of my then-meagre guilders to see him in the same venue. The concert he performed was nothing short of miraculous. I left, wandering around the beautifully lit streets and the canals, transported, with the notes ringing in my ears.

Perhaps my enjoyment of Glass and films like Koyaanisquatsi is a symptom of my modernity, despite my wishes. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is this: When I listen to Glass I catch a fleeting glimpse of the divine and feel as if I have clumsily touched something divine.

Sounds right-wing to me.

LA replies:

I didn’t mention Glass’s soundtrack, but of course it was a central element of the movie and its emotional/spiritual effect.

However, I wonder if the movie would have the same impact if seen on TV screen.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 02, 2011 11:48 AM | Send

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