stop, mr. miura!

September 18, 2008

Despite the absence of a whole screen, not to mention information, we got to see a fair few films at the Festival. The good were:

Panta Rei (Alt Flyter): on an artist in the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway, and his project to recreate some of the solar system with globes on the islands around him. Project itself not so interesting, the artist a little more so, the narrative very much so, but all outshone by the natural beauty of the surroundings there, and the beautiful filming.

Dimensions: snow-kiting film that showed how to make a great stunt movie: snappy editing, thumping music, minimal chat from the riders and maximal action!

The bad:

Out There: Teton Gravity’s new surf film did just the opposite, showed how NOT to make a stunt movie good. Amazing big wave surfing, but tedious, banal philisophizing by surfers on how to save the world (but mainly the surf).

Steep: traces the birth and development of extreme skiing. Cool Chamonix footage from the 70’s, but yet another victim of pontifying proponents.

The amazing: By far the best film we saw was almost 30 years old. The Man Who Skied Down Everest tells the story of Yuichiro Miura’s attempt to ski down almost from the peak of Everest. Only when I started to look into it did I find out that the film won the Academy Award for the best documentary in 1975.

This was Everest old-school style, before commercial expeditions, hence the requirement for 800 (!) porters and 40 days. Senstive, observant excerpts from Miura’s diary from this period make up the film’s monologue. Which made it even harder to understand his completely mad approach to skiing down (and presumably wanting to stop before the massive crevasse). Muira didn’t seem to believe much in controlled skiing, rather relying on a parachute (!) to slow him down, oh, and some snowploughing when he got to it.

The final scenes of the ski descent were absolutely heart-stopping, exciting fiml-making the likes of which I have not seen for a long time. Spoiler up next, so don’t click on if you want to watch it for yourself, which I strongly recommend!

This is what Miura had to say after his descent (after stopping horribly close to a bottomless crevasse):

I am alive. They say I skied 6600 feet in 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I fell 1320 feet. I stopped 250 feet from the crevasse. Numbers have meaning in the world below. But in this almost airless world, what do they mean? Was it a success or a failure? That I am alive must be the will of some higher power.

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