Godfrey Reggio forsakes the sped up time lapses of KOYAANISQATSI for a more slow motion approach, exploring third world cultures for a glorious exploration of human life at its most basic. Captures the essence of life away from the hustle and bustle of the more developed world. Its lingering close ups on careworn and yet peaceful faces are haunting and strangely spiritual.
In my opinion, Koyaanisqatsi remains as one of the best films by Reggio. Anyway Powaqqatsi is a terrific film, it exposes people in their poor conditions, with the familiar camera movements that the director accustomed us. His look in this film is much more expository and raw that in the other 2 from the trilogy.
More structurally developed than Koyaanisqatsi. Its first half is done in the style of a vapid Sony Bravia ad: gorgeous, but not much more. The awe-inspiring moments come after, with the display of the transformation from the subtitle, mostly in the crowds, the eyes and so many other beautiful, beautiful things. However, despite being more maximalist, it feels less broad in scope.
Not as mind-blowing as Koyaanisqatsi primarily because it had to follow it, not due to any glaring flaws. Still, Reggio's mediocre work is far better than a lot of directors' best work. It is important to note that Graham Berry's cinematography and Phillip Glass' music are essential to the film. Also note that this "format" or "style"--while perhaps not for everyone--has a long history within the cinematic art form.
I like that Reggio's films are tabula rasa, but I like watching interviews with him just as much (thanks Criterion!). It highlights for me that the shakier aspects these films could be interpreted as are not intentions necessarily shared by him. The idea that globalisation is harming traditional lifestyles (styles this film unites) is tenuously conjectured here, but the threat of homogenisation is one to fight.
Reggio is not a documentary filmmaker, he's a visual poet. Koya is about a world we know, or at least we think we know, but Powa is about the unknown, lifes so different to ours that the lack of context that Reggio's style imposes on the film confuses us about the way we should react to those striking images of poor people. It is altougth rather an optimistic film compared to the overwhelming Koya. The soundtrack!