Film_640w_koyaanisqatsi_original

Glass

by Eric Levy

Created 03/20/13

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American composer Philip Glass has scored over 100 films. So far six of his features and one short are a part of the Criterion Collection. He's one of my favorites, so I thought I'd make this list.

Cross-references to my other lists are included in the notes.

Personal statistics: S=Seen, D=Own on DVD, *=non-Criterion edition. Totals (including ANIMA MUNDI): Seen 7, DVDs 5.

UPDATE 12/17/13: Added A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

  • 1983. (S/D*) Cross-reference: Hints

    This is the film that really launched Glass's career, especially as a film composer. He had scored a handful of short documentaries and experimental films prior to this one and had gained some notoriety for his 1976 opera EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH, but KOYAANISQATSI is the film that put him (and director Godfrey Reggio) on the map.

  • 1985. (S) Cross-reference: Greenaway 2

    I haven't seen this since its original release, and I wasn't crazy about it back then. The score however is perhaps Glass's single greatest composition. Essential listening, if not viewing, though I suppose I should revisit the film.

  • 1988. (S/D*) Cross-reference: Hints

    The QATSI trilogy was an exercise in diminishing returns. Each film wasn't quite as impressive as the previous one, but they are all interesting and well worth seeing. This is one of Glass's more atypical—though still brilliant—scores. The lovely Reggio/Glass short film ANIMA MUNDI is included on this disc too.

  • 1991. (S) Cross-reference: Hints

    Documentarian Errol Morris has collaborated with Glass three times and produced three excellent movies featuring some of Glass's most impressive work. This is the second—after THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988) and before THE FOG OF WAR (2003). It's thrilling Morris has joined the Criterion family. More please!

  • 1946/1994. (S/D) Cross-references: JR; Greenaway 2

    In 1994, Glass composed the ambitious opera LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE to accompany this exquisite fairytale from Jean Cocteau. The singing is actually synched up with the actors' dialog. Not an easy task, but the results are wonderful (I was fortunate enough to see this performed live). Definitely watch the original version first, but the opera, which is included on this disc as an alternate track, is an incredible re-imagining of the film. The Criterion site includes Glass in their Explore>People pages, but neglect this one. Glass also composed works inspired by Cocteau's ORPHÉE and LES ENFANTS TERRIBLE. (In a similar move, Glass also wrote a score for the 1931 film DRACULA, which is available as an alternate track on Universal's DVD or BD.)

  • 2002. (S/D*) Cross-reference: Hints

    Definitely my least favorite of the trilogy. Reggio shot nothing at all for this film, it's composed entirely of found images. An interesting idea, to be sure, but the results are unsatisfying here. The score however is one of Glass's best and features the legendary Yo-Yo Ma on cello.

9 comments

  • By Scott_DAgostino
    April 09, 2013
    11:40 PM

    Good to know I wasn't the only one disappointed by Naqoyqatsi.
    Reply
  • By Kevin Green
    April 10, 2013
    08:44 AM

    Loved the Trilogy but have to agree on the 3rd -the weakess......
    Reply
  • By Luis Restrepo
    April 12, 2013
    12:11 AM

    You have to revisit Mishima. I watched it first because of the Glass score but have seen it countless times after and find it even more fascinating with each viewing. Also ditto on Naqoyquatsi, I absolutely love the score he composed for the film but I think Reggio really missed the ball visually.
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    • By Eric Levy
      April 12, 2013
      05:01 AM

      Thanks for the comments and favorites everyone. (And thanks Criterion for putting my list on the homepage!) I'm glad to see there's come consensus on NAQOYQATSI. And you're right Luis, I will definitely revisit MISHIMA soon and report back here when I do.
  • By steven r.
    April 24, 2013
    07:59 PM

    Don't forget about Anima Mundi!
    Reply
  • By futurestar
    May 03, 2013
    11:24 PM

    a very unique and focused list. I like the audacity of this person not feeling the need to conform to the typical top ten (plus). every film here is stalwart and holds it's ground with spikes. nice job.
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    • By Eric Levy
      May 05, 2013
      06:19 AM

      Thanks futurestar. Yeah, those "My favorite" lists don't do much for me. If anyone is interested in my personal taste, they can gather that from my collection and wish list. All of my lists are derived from objective criteria. Just how my mind works, I guess. Please check out my others. And Steven, I mention ANIMA MUNDI in my introduction and in the comments to POWAQQATSI. The site doesn't allow adding shorts that are bonus features separately.
  • By LVJeff
    June 06, 2013
    12:50 PM

    Great idea for a list. Kind of sad to see there isn't more in the collection (here's hoping for, maybe, some Errol Morris stuff soon). And yeah, poor NAQOYQATSI is an interesting idea, but not so interesting to watch (though, I admit, with each viewing it bothers me less). However, I could listen to its score (especially the "Massman" section) for eternity.
    Reply
  • By Peter_Wilson
    October 09, 2013
    09:46 PM

    Brilliant list you put together on one of the greatest composers of all time. If you can find the time please check out my lists. http://www.criterion.com/lists/157365-akira-kurosawa-s-favorite-films http://www.criterion.com/lists/157548-beginning-a-career http://www.criterion.com/lists/166924-daydreams http://www.criterion.com/lists/166955-growing-old http://www.criterion.com/lists/167087-lonely-hearts
    Reply

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