Hawaiian Starlight, A Cinematic Symphony (2008)

by | Apr 6, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Hawaiian Starlight, A Cinematic Symphony (2008)

“Exploring the Universe from Mauna Kea”
Director: Jean-Charles Cuillandre
Music: Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori
Studio: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFH) [www.cfht.hawaii.edu/hs]
Video: 16:9 anamorphic color
Audio: DD 5.1, DD 2.0
Region free
Extras: The Physics Behind the Scenes, The Astrophysics Behind the Scenes, The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Mauna Kea, 2 silent slideshows: Hawaii’s Natural Beauty & Mauna Kea and the Observatories, Production notes, Film history, True Colors of the Universe
Length: Feature: 43 mins.; Extras: 1 hour
Rating: *****

There is a major astronomical installation on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, since it offers the best viewing of the cosmos to be found in the northern hemisphere.  It has not only optical reflector telescopes but also banks of radio telescopes which are programmed together with other radio telescopes elsewhere on earth.  Director Cuillandre has been photographing the mountain and its connections to the skies for seven years on both hi-def video and in still photography (seen in the two excellent slide shows).  He has put together his often amazing images – many using magical time-lapse cinematography – with color images of stars, galaxies, and other wonders of the heavens photographed by the observatory telescopes.  The striking images are supported by a soundtrack of New Age “Halo Music” that fits beautifully and makes excellent use of the surround field.

The main presentation has been divided into various chapters on Galaxies, Clouds, Sunrises & Sunsets, Birth of Stars, etc.  Some of the celestial images are just as amazing as those from the Hubble Telescope, and the gorgeous time-lapse cloud images struck me as similar to those Philip Glass did such appropriate music for in Koyanaqatsi.

Snow covers everything in some of the mountaintop images; it does get cold enough at that elevation for snow in Hawaii. Oddly, there are flags for English and French languages on the back of the box, but I could access no spoken narration – only the music – and I was curious about details on some of the images seen.  The featurettes in the extras do answer a number of questions that naturally come up in viewing the presentation. This won an Audience Award at the Maui Film Festival; bet you didn’t know there was a Maui Film Festival…

 – John Sunier

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