“The Man Who Skied Down Everest” (1975)
When George Mallory famously responded to the question as to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest with the seemingly flippant remark- “Because it’s there” -his brief answer would prove to provide a succinct definition as to rationalizing the existential challenge to the modern adventurer. However, when the specific nature of said adventures fall into the category of novelty rather than that of significance, then such a conquest of historic inconsequence calls for outside observers to apply the brakes of practical comparative criticism. Such a novelty challenge is not so much explored than merely recorded in the Bruce Crawley production of “The Man Who Skied Down Everest”, in what, in essence, is a testament to Man’s persistence in personal glory regardless of the sacrifice or expense to others.
The film relates, in interestingly documented logistical and technical detail, the method by which hundreds of porters, Sherpas, technicians, journalists and fellow climbers journey from Katmandu to Mount Everest so that Japanese alpine skier Yûichirô Miura may try his hand at being the first man to every ski down the world’s highest peak. The film is narrated completely from the journal of Miura, his words given voice by Canadian actor Douglas Rain (familiar as the voice of HAL 9000 in “2001”), and since his perspective is the only directly articulated window we are given as to nature and purpose of the venture, we are beholden to his judgment in all matters except for one: what we see for ourselves in the remarkable captured footage, which often either contradicts or minimizes the often pie in the sky philosophical ramblings which fail to account for the reality of the hardships his singular quest for adventure is wreaking on his absurdly vast support team. Rather than a heroic figure, the spoken text reveals the skier to be something of a narcissistic, arrogant jerk, as well as a singularly unimaginative tour guide; espousing prosaic musings meant to memorialize his own status, yet never once do the thoughts of the man capture the poetry of aesthetic splendor in a single one of the wondrous images captured by the camera crew headed by director of photography Mitsuji Kanau.
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