once within a time
(directors: Jon Kane, Godfrey Reggio; screenwriter: Godfrey Reggio; cinematographer: Trish Govoni; editor: Jon Kane; music: Philip Glass, Sussan Deyhim; cast: Apollo Garcia Orellana (Destiny), Tara Starling Khozein (Hero), Brian Belott (Nonsense Man), John Flax (Buster Keaton-esque character), Sussan Deyhim (Tree of Life), Mike Tyson (a futuristic Afro jazz deity), Aaron Kingsley Adeto (Hero Kid); Runtime: 43; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mara Campione, Godfrey Reggio; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2023)
“Can revel in its foolishness.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors Godfrey Reggio (“Koyaanisqatsi“/”Visitors”), the 80-something former Christian Brotherhood monk, and Jon Kane, the DJ-turned-video-artist, present a trippy experimental short film, in the form of a fairy-tale without dialogue. This is Reggio’s first fictional narrative, coming years after his Qatsi trilogy. It will most likely not appeal to viewers of commercial films as much as it will appeal to cinephiles, Guy Maddin fans (who share similar visual traits) and those freaky types looking for a different sort of art film.
The film played at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.
Like his non-fiction movies, Reggio again takes note of the mistakes made by humanity in the past and tries to find out how to correct those mistakes for the future in this emotionally challenging doomsday fable.
Its striking cinematography, filled with evocative symbolism, reminds us of those early silent films, while its apocalyptic themes relate to our modern-day ones.
The surreal visuals are enticing and give the film a magical look, as the score by Philip Glass noticeably enhances the film by providing a rich dreamscape for a film not afraid to let go of reality to tell its absorbing futuristic tale.
For celebrity watchers, there’s a cameo by Mike Tyson, the former bad dude in the boxing ring, who comes on as a John Coltrane figure, adorned in a wizard’s robe and with the ability to attract followers.
The narrative tries to recall in its own inimical way the biblical Adam and Eve story, until it goes away from the garden to follow some innocent children at play.
The Iranian singer Susan Deyhim plays the Tree of Life, while UFOs land somewhere on Earth. Monkeys have a blast as they monkey around with virtual reality goggles. While in the opening scene after the red curtains are pulled back, we get to hear an Earth goddess singing from her heart.
It’s that kind of a loopy tone-poem film that can revel in its foolishness and laugh at itself when it tries talking in gibberish while being dead serious as it warns us of the potential end of the world.
REVIEWED ON 10/23/2023 GRADE: B