Reviewing all the movies at Aspen Ski Co’s “Meeting” is like herding cats. You’ve got the big tom in the lead, a few panting yowlers in the middle and some kittens at the rear. I was going to cover some of the yowlers, but realized (as the sky darkened at the Minneapolis airport) that I should cut through the feline furballs, ignore the mewling kittens, and talk about the tom.
In this case, the scrappy stud who rules the alley is Matchstick Productions, with this year’s screen splitting blast of testosterone otherwise known as “Claim.”
You didn’t have to work hard to pick up on Claim’s uniting theme, that of “hey, we’re tired of all these amazing athletes acting like what they do is nothing more than parking in their grandmother’s driveway with her watching — it’s time they ‘claimed’ their dominance.
Ok, how do you do that without looking like a bunch of jerks? Humor, my dear Watson, humor.
By cutting out to vignettes of the film’s athletes claiming how great they are, tongue in cheek, you get a feeling of self depreciating humor that’s way more genuine than fake looking nonchalance and false modesty. Then, when these cats do pump a fist or raise a cheer for a job well done, it looks, well, right.
I loved it. Seeing guys like Mark Abma and Simon Dumont doing amazing stuff on skis, then hearing the back chatter, and then getting a dose of on the scene excitement. Even the intro segments were crafted to convey more than athletic excellence, but rather enthusiasm and I’ll say it, pride, that goes with this kind of stuff. And, worth stating again, a healthy dose of hyperbolic humor as the athletes claim their buddies are great — but their own skiing is better. This is especially true of the trailer, which presents the “claim” gag nearly ad nauseam, but pulls it off.
Segments that stand out in my mind:
Simon Dumont going for his 35 foot quarter pipe record, which involved no small amount of danger as he was something like 75 feet off the deck. Other movies have footage of this as well, but Matchstick’s is better (a 100 foot crane shot helped).
Speed flying, that totally psychotic “sport” shown in all its glory and failure, when the pilot does crash on a 50 degree death wall above an ice cliff. In this case, the claim we see is our fist punching protagonist trying to stop his slide for life with little more than his fists. The guy of course survives and shrugs it off, but seeing him struggling to prevent his own demise is not pretty, and brings a certain point across. Basically, that some things are particularly crazy, might be fun to watch on film, but no necessarily viable mountain sports.
Climbing skins. Five seconds worth. Five seconds more than any other film at the festival.
Colby West. Outdoes himself as a crooner. Has to be seen. Might go on a bit long but makes this a great date movie.
And, ta da, an actual ski mountaineering segment featuring Chris Davenport on a couple of classic extreme lines in the Alps. This was of course my favorite part by a longshot, and will not disappoint anyone with even a shred of alpinist in their soul. While Dav actually did four of the Alps classic descents this past season, “Claim” only features two: Eiger and Matterhorn. Both are big and fairly steep, and with modern film technique make for some good eye candy. I would have liked more tight shots of the actual skiing, with angles to show how steep and dangerous that terrain really is, but getting shots like that is a quantum tougher than setting up a camera position at the outrun of a cliff jump, so I’ll keep my gripes quiet.
Lastly, an interview with extreme skiing pioneer Sylvan Saudan is included in the Davenport segment. Saudan’s claim can not be denied. At the same time, he’s known for always having his hand out and thus being difficult to interview for folks with less than an astronomical budget. Somehow Matchstick got around “the skier of the impossible’s” taste for coin — perhaps the rad Frenchman is mellowing out a bit? Or he liked Dav and the Matchstick boys? Probably both. And Sylvan, you did look good in the interview. How did you get that tan?
WildSnow four thumbs up. And Colby, stay away from my wife. Saucer boy, you too.