Occasionally, a work or an artist comes along that is so influential, so inescapable that anything that comes after can’t help but reference it, intentionally or not. Think about how, after The Matrix, every ad on TV seemed to use that same timeslice technique. Or how, after the Strokes, the world drowned in a surfeit of ‘The…’ guitar bands.
I was reminded of this the other day when I watched the trailer for Candide Thovex’s new film Few Words. Not that I’m saying Candide (who directs as well as stars in the film) has deliberately tried to copy the Art of Flight: far from it. And don’t even suggest it to the Mike Rogge, author of this piece for Powder Magazine.
What I’m saying is that the ubiquitous AoF has stamped it’s visual style so authoritatively over the entire snow scene that the comparison is difficult to avoid. Moody shots of wild animals/long-tracking shots over glaciers/the star atop an inaccessible peak: they’re all here. As a commenter on the Powder article says, ‘How could you NOT compare it to Art of Flight’?
Maybe a similarity was inevitable, given that both of these projects have been part-funded by Quiksilver, for whom Rice and Thovex are two key athletes. And it goes without saying that the skiing will be up there with the best ever filmed. It does beg an interesting question though. Where next for snow films? Are these corporate, deadly serious ‘trick/cut/stomp’ films, however big budget and however many helicopters and HD cameras you use, really the apex of the snow film medium? Where else could they go?
One avenue would be to try something fairly obvious: tell a story. And by story, I don’t mean ‘plot’, like Chalet Girl or whatever. I mean story in the journalistic, documentary sense. Like any sport, snow sports are full of fascinating, compelling stories. The problem is, the only ones we tend to hear are ‘come and admire the amazing life this pro has’. There are exceptions, like René Eckert’s documentary about snowboarding in China, Sleeping Giants, but these tend not to showcase particularly cutting edge riding.
But surely there’s a way to showcase the best riding in the world with some real imagination and narrative power. Other sports have managed it: think Mickey Smith’s great surf short The Dark Side of the Lens, or Stacey Peralta’s documentaries, like the forthcoming Bones Brigade film.
As far as I can see, the field is still clear for somebody in snowsports to successfully marry great footage with a compelling story and take things to the next level. For some inspiration, I think it’s time to dust off the heroic legacy of Greg Stump, the ski film-maker who attempted just this with his series of classic 1980s ski films. Sure, they’ve not dated well. But they still contain more creativity, humour, wit and imagination (OK, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood) than most modern snow films I can think of.
The best bit? Stump is back, to update the story with a new film, The Legend of Aaahhhs. Just in time Greg. Your culture needs you.