Archive for the ‘Sports Documentary’ Category

Free Solo

11 Nov

FREE SOLO—directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. SportsDoc. 10 minutes Color 2018
THE STORY: Bare handed, without ropes, Alex Honnold climbs 3000 feet cliff El Capitain in Yosemite.
What’s surprising and even more daring is the thoroughness of the preparation Honnold makes about the face of the mountains he scales. Inch by inch, handhold by handhold, minute ledge by ledge, he has looked at the bare, steep face of these cliffs and precipices, and knows their biography by heart before he takes a single tread.

Wonderful things: of course, how perfectly his face takes the camera. Then the drones which film him from angles no camera could achieve without them. Then the simplicity and lack of glamour of his non-climbing life, for he seems to be living out of a van.

Finally, on the negative side, is the dreadful presence and intrusion of his girlfriend. Poor thing. It’s clear she does not love him, because she wants him to love her more than he loves his calling, and why should he? It would be immoral. The care, attention, common sense, and gentleness with which his male team and film crew treat him is more loving than her nagging. She doesn’t mean to, but she wants to drag him down. She simply hasn’t a clue. Or rather, she seems to be driven by an understandable but irrelevant urge to domesticity which is not only out of place and dangerous but makes her look shamefully self-serving. One longs for her to go away; eventually she does.

She wants an embrace closer to his body than his body must embrace the side of a cliff. And we wonder how he does it. His two strong thumbs and the purchase on tiny ridges by the thin rims of two sneakers are all that hold him and move him up the vertical. And cleave him to it when he looks to be upside down.

The spectacle of his climbing leaves one agog.

And gravity speechless.

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Posted in BIODOC, Sports Documentary


Ride The Divide

12 May

Ride The Divide. Sports Documentary. 16 mountain bikers run the Continental divide trail in a race of over 2700 miles from Banff in B.C to Mexico. 80 minutes Color 2010.


Well, the music is inane, and folks fall into emotionalism, and the roadside restaurants sometimes take over and the actual riding is lost, but what the heck: to recount the grueling is to repeat the tedium, which ingredient is its chief torture. After a while I got used to the beautiful sights passing by, and after a while I stopped being annoyed that the riders were not seeing them or, if they were, were tired of them or were taking them for granted, or that the camera was seeing what could not distract the riders from the slog or give them relief from its trudge. The winner is a young man about to have his first child, and when he finishes he seems ready to become a father, for such are the psychic and spiritual surprises of such a journey. As to the camera crew, there is no way of really capturing the essence of such a ride. In 1979 when I was 44 I biked on a ten- speed silver Nishiki from Jasper B.C. down the panhandle of Idaho, into Utah, then into New Mexico, and on to Columbus. I did the whole thing in camp moccasins, without a hat. I met no other riders on the way, but I met people who spirited me off into many unusual adventures. That is not this. This is a race. But it is the same thing because there is no anticipating the benefit of such a feat before one starts out, because one cannot know if one will finish. A day at a time is the rule. As with life. And as for me – I was just riding. I had no other place to be. It was not a feat until I had done it and even then only a feat in the eyes of those who had not done it. So the rule is that for us human males and females, there are arduous journeys that it is some times opportune to embark on, and this film is a pretty good record of passage of one of them and the mental states endured by those who set out. The defeat by the mind, the conviction the mind erects to discontinue, the logic at odds with the odds, the plebian rationales. One is faced, not with pain or tedium but with one’s own mad mind. No matter. One pedals on. Pedal and pedal and pedal. Six finished. And ten days after he won, the winner’s son was born.


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Posted in DOCUMENTARY, Sports Documentary

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