Just run Shazam at the beginning of every podcast!
So glad that @ChristienMurawski saw Free Solo. We saw it here at Cinema 21 as part of a special event where Alex Honnold was present to participate in a Q&A afterward. I found the relationship angle kind of tiresome as it has been done much better elsewhere and the “climbing girlfriend” thing is almost a genre in itself (c.f. Maria Coffey’s writings after the death of Joe Tasker on Everest) but Free Solo does redeem itself with the attention it pays to the technical aspects of how Honnold breaks down the route. Also, it does a great job of building the audience’s anxiety about the crux moves on the route by explaining and isolating them and reifying the risk, so that when you get to the actual climb, the tension is tremendous. My climbing partner said that when he watched that part of the movie, he was so tense his palms were sweaty and shaking. And he’s an accomplished neurosurgeon who goes through his own share of tension. I was very impressed with this part of the film.
Something the film touched on but could have done a lot more with (I think) was the technical challenge of filming this. They did address it somewhat by saying that the camerapeople were acutely award of not distracting Alex when he was in view of their positions, but I wish they had gone further into just how technically difficult it is to film climbing, because not only do you have to be in sometimes very awkward positions that you hold for long periods of time, but it’s not like you’re just sitting in a chair operating a dolly with a jib arm: you’re operating a camera and climbing, and while you may have lots of protection, you don’t just magically show up on the route. You have to first scout the vantage points, which requires climbing, and then reach them and stay there. These guys are all good climbers, and then they have to be cinematographers as well. Climbing cinematography to me is one of the most underappreciated parts of climbing filmmaking, at least from the standpoint of presentation. Everyone loves a good climbing shot. Few people learn about what was involved to get it.
One thing the Q&A brought out was the different attitudes Alex Honnold and Jimmy Chin (the director) had about what to do with the footage should Honnold be killed. Jimmy Chin (who was also present) said something quite moving about how the crew would have probably just burned everything to wipe out the memories of losing their friend, as well as being respectful of him, and got somewhat emotional about it. Honnold, in keeping with his clearly (as Dingus put it) “spectrum-y” personality, sort of off-handedly said, well, I wouldn’t have cared, because I would have been dead, so I mean just show the footage, I don’t care. I’m dead, right? I thought that exchange did more to illuminate Honnold’s personality in a short period than the movie did in a hundred minutes.
I wholeheartedly concur with Dingus’ endorsement of Meru. I liked it more than Free Solo. Jimmy Chin is pretty engaging, unlike Honnold, who is likable but not very relatable. In my opinion.