Critique of the "Alpinist": dizzying heights

In a podcast taken at the start of “The mountaineer” climber Alex Honnold, from Oscar-winning documentary “Free solo” is invited to na...


In a podcast taken at the start of “The mountaineer” climber Alex Honnold, from Oscar-winning documentary “Free solo” is invited to name a climber who impresses him. He quotes Marc-André Leclerc, a Canadian who Honnold says takes on some of the sport’s toughest challenges in “such a pure style.” Honnold’s remarks suggest Leclerc would happily ascend in the dark, keeping his accomplishments between himself and the mountains.

“The Alpinist” – directed by Peter Mortimer (who narrates) and Nick Rosen, both specialists in climbing documentaries – tries to corner Leclerc. The difficulties go beyond filming it at great height on rock faces covered with ice or snow. While the gangly, curly and almost clumsy Leclerc proves an affable presence on screen – after seeing him ax climbing an icicle wall in the Canadian Rockies, he casually describes it as “a very good day.” – his commitment to documentary is tenuous. At one point, he abandons the filmmakers. When they reconnect, he points out that the presence of the camera interferes with the notion of climbing alone: ​​“It wouldn’t be a solo for me if someone was there.

The film could demystify how some of his most terrifying first shots were filmed. (Later we are told that Leclerc agreed to carry a small camera himself to film part of a conquest in Patagonia.) But he captures the philosophy of his subject. As with Honnold in “Free Solo”, the film suggests that Leclerc was naturally predisposed to the search for strong feelings. In Argentina, he says he eats every dinner before the ascent as if it were the last.

The mountaineer
Classified PG-13. Dangerous climbs. Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes. In theaters.

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