Godfrey Reggio uses precisely 74 shots to tell his story. With only four behind me and 70 left to go, the film’s thesis was already stated and its conclusion long foregone. Do I grab a coffee refill in the lobby and hunker down or head straight to the parking garage?
Walking out is seldom an option, and when my right to make an early exit is exercised, it’s generally during something I never should have stepped into to begin with. Reggio, purveyor of fine coffee-table movies that he is (Powaqqatsi, Koyaanisqatsi), is an acquired taste I have yet to acquire. His documentaries are the stuff domed IMAXes are made for, not multiplex art houses.
Visitors intercuts black-and-white, dialog-free, unbroken, close-up ’Scope long-takes of faces — with allegorical inserts of abandoned amusement parks, disjointed hands moving a computer mouse (or is it close-up magic?), enough accelerated clouds to make one time-lapse into a coma, and children as credulous symbols of hope.
It’s Paranormal Activity for eggheads, a staring contest during which my eyes practically bled from focusing on so many fixed images for such long periods. The camera takes aren’t the only thing Reggio sustains. Wait until you get a load of the great lengths he goes to state the obvious. Wouldn’t the point be better taken in a story that unified people as opposed to the cold, splintering effects of a clinical drill? At least he had the wherewithal to use a tripod.
According to this highfalutin’ technical exercise, since humanity spends so much of its time staring into a computer screen, why not turn things around and situate an audience inside a laptop and force them to look out. Why would anyone disrespect a viewer enough to want to trap them inside a computer for 87 minutes?
Reggio should have cut it down to seven minutes and allowed his Film Tech 101 class to lounge in the brilliance, not clog art-house arteries with its pretense. What one critic referred to as “a tedious Rorschach test” has forever cemented a black spot in my heart as, quite simply, one of the worst movies ever made.