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The Boston Globe

Movies

The formidable face behind ‘Visitors’

TORONTO — A first meeting with filmmaker Godfrey Reggio can be a bit unsettling. When I was ushered in to talk with him at last fall’s Toronto International Film festival, the morning after seeing his new film “Visitors,” he was seated in a comfy chair. When he slowly rose to shake my hand, he seemed to keep on rising, till he was towering over me at his full 6 feet 7 inches. He’s also thin and gangly, with a white beard and a messy flop of graying hair. It was quite a sight to take in. Then he spoke. It’s a deep, rich, mellifluous voice, and the words came out very slowly, as if each one was carefully being formed and measured before it was uttered.

Reggio, 73, has only made four feature films, along with three shorts, in a film career that began in 1975, when he set to work on “Koyaanisqatsi,” a wordless visual extravaganza, accompanied by a Philip Glass score about, some would say, the rise and fall and rise and fall of Western civilization. The film was released in 1982, to international accolades. Reggio’s “qatsi trilogy,” taking in “Powaqqatsi” (1988) and “Naqoyqatsi” (2002) with only Glass’s music for sound, is the work of a visionary. The films look at our world and its people in a way never done before. Reggio doesn’t call them documentaries. He refers to them as experiential – every viewer will see and interpret each film in a different way.

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