“Visitors”: When You Stare Into the Movie, the Movie Stares Into You

The feature films of director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass have never been for everyone, and their new black and white collaboration Visitors is unlikely to cut into The Lego Movie's profits. Not offering the same kind of visual variety as their famed Qatsi trilogy — 1982's Koyaanisqatsi, 1988's Powaqqatsi, and 2002's unheralded trilogy highlight NaqoyqatsiVisitors is composed of a mere 74 shots, typically slow pans of dilapidated structures or gone-to-seed nature intercut with slow-motion closeups of people staring into the camera. The images are gorgeous, especially seen in stunning digital 4k in a properly equipped theater (such as the Embarcadero), but strangers getting up in your grill is just unnerving, and it's often a relief when the picture cuts back to things without faces. In a way, the stripped-down nature of Visitors feels like a response to how the advent of affordable digital filmmaking has made Koyannisqatsi perhaps not as unique as it once was; the original movie is still a work of art, but there are countless mini-Qatsis on Vimeo. It all means whatever you want it to mean, and Reggio has confirmed that many of the people are actually watching TV or playing video games — so if you do watch Visitors, remember that you probably look weird doing it.

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