Baraka

Showing in its original 70-millimeter format for the first time in Chicago, this lush 1992 travelogue by director-cinematographer Ron Fricke surveys 24 countries and a variety of scenes—waterfalls and slums, verdant forests and Kuwaiti oil fires—that are unidentified by titles or narration. Fricke collaborated with Godfrey Reggio on Koyaanisqatsi (1983), and this film is similarly showy, presenting the cutest possible primate, the busiest possible subway station, and various natives posing for the camera. With a few exceptions (like the weightless cut from birds in flight to aerial shots of a waterfall), Fricke edits as if Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, Stan Brakhage, and Peter Kubelka had never been born: shots are slapped together, interacting neither visually nor conceptually, and the trite New Agey score supplies portentous chords for mountains and menacing drums for a volcano. The film's one-world thesis is asserted but never made convincing, as Fricke zigzags from the Western Wall to whirling dervishes to the Grand Mosque of Mecca in a superficial gloss on faith (and everything else). 96 min.

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