Posting this between a Korean film and a Hong Kong fim, and while I'm very excited to see these big Asian films get actual American theatrical releases, I can't see everything, and one or two of those per week, plus spending a few more weeks in Montreal as I do in the summer has to come out of some other moviegoing, and that sadly tends to be the more boutique-house stuff. Heck, even Meru is pretty close to my summer-movie appetites, just being a non-fiction adventure movie rather than something dramatized.
But, then, fall's coming, so maybe things will start to balance out again.
Worth mentioning since I made a big deal of it the last time I saw something on this screen: The Kendall-6 blue pixel did not seem to be in evidence Thursday night; either they have fixed the projection or it simply doesn't pop against a white snow field the way it does in black shadows. Glad not to see it, though!
* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 September 2015 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)
The mountain that gives Meru its title is described within the film as "the anti-Everest", although as you might expect, that does not mean that it is a pleasant ascent even for those who get winded by the stadium seating we might have to navigate to see a movie about everything that could go wrong climbing one of those mountains on the big screen. Like many documentaries of this type, it's plenty thrilling, because even if the outcome is never in question, getting there takes a heck of an effort.
Meru Peak is called the anti-Everest because there are no sherpas to assist, but the nearly-vertical "shark's fin" route up it's central peak is extremely featureless even where it is not covered in ice; it requires several different types of expertise to navigate. When the party that this film follows makes their first attempt in 2008, no human had made the ascent. That group is Conrad Anker, one of the world's premier climbers; Jimmy Chin, his longtime partner (the pair have climbed Everest four times each); and Renan Ozturk, a younger mountaineer whose skills in online videos have impressed Anker. As if climbing over a mile straight up starting from a base camp at 14,500 feet isn't difficult enough, a storm has them staying in their portaledge for four days despite only having brought food for a week, and that is not the only challenge they will face.
Chin is one of the two credited directors, with the other being Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and the two are both experienced in their own way: Vasarhelyi has made several feature documentaries (the one I'd seen previously, Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love, does a nice job of being entertaining and informative); Chin is an award-winning photographer of these extreme environments. Ozturk is also credited not just as a cinematographer alongside Chin, but as part of the editorial department. Chin's directing credit surprised me a bit, because this never felt like a particularly first-person sort of documentary, and his accomplishments seem neither overstated nor presented with false modesty. I'm curious how this collaboration worked - was Chin in charge of getting good footage during the climb while Vasarhelyi was in charge on level ground - but it seems to be an effective one, seeming to able play to both mountaineers and the rest of us without being too inside or oversimplified (note: the pair married in 2013, which may make things either simpler or more complicated).
Full review on EFC.