By Matt Hansen
Conventional wisdom says that ski movies should never be longer than 45 minutes, an hour tops. Get in, get out, and go drink some beer. So it was somewhat surprising to learn that MSP’s new flick, The Way I See It, is 73 minutes long, with credits.
Before the film’s world premiere Saturday night in Boulder, MSP co-founder Murray Wais and co-director and editor Scott Gaffney explained it this way: “It takes longer to tell a story.”
Some cynical and jaded viewers might see this as an indication of a snoozer with too many bro-brah interviews, right?
Wrong. Not that this film is a documentary, or that it owns a common thread from start, middle and finish. But there are several entertaining vignettes being told along the way: There’s Sean Pettit, and how such a young kid can be so incredibly talented. There’s Kaj Zackrisson, Sverre Liliequist, Richard Permin and Phil Meier charging huge lines in Tulsequah, B.C., and getting into some serious trouble with avalanche activity and a couple of horrific crashes. There’s Bobby Brown, Russ Henshaw, Permin, and newcomer Gus Kenworthy hitting a massive booter up in Alyeska that turns out to be the most important jump session of 2010 (Brown throws a triple flat 1080 and a triple flat 1260; i.e. ridiculous). This particular story is narrated by the comedic genius of Colby West, who happened to miss this very important jump session by one day. The editing is crisp, and the jokes are timed perfectly; the action is stunning.
There’s a sad story, too. Last year was the first time MSP had filmed Arne Backstrom, the 2010 Freeskiing World Champion and big brother to a very famous skier named Ingrid. The film shows Arne and Ingrid chasing one another off cliffs and down lines, roughhousing and playing as skiing siblings do. It is clear from the start that for the Backstroms, everything in the mountains comes easily and naturally, and that they are very close. As Ingrid tells the camera, “It’s like skiing with a much better version of myself.” But tragedy struck in June, when Arne fell to his death during a ski mountaineering trip in Peru. MSP, always mindful of the close-knit ski community, treats it expertly, and provides a touching tribute to Arne, and Ingrid’s relationship to him.
Finally, there is the story of Cody Townsend, who was a last-minute replacement to an injured Mark Abma on a heli shoot in Alaska. Townsend, a Squaw local, has had many small segments over the last several years, appearing in Rage Films and TGR, and even back in 2005 for MSP’s DVD remix. You’ll have to go see the film to get the full story, but in The Way I See It, Townsend calls out the MSP guys, on camera, as “dicks,” for “nearly ruining my career.” (This, it turns out, was scripted by Wais.) The next frame, he’s up in Alaska getting out of a helicopter with Henrik Windstedt. What ensues is classic AK ski porn. Supremely gifted athletes blazing down giant peaks. For the hardworking Townsend, the recognition is long overdue, and it should finally cause people to sit up and take notice.
When the credits finally role up the screen, what’s striking is that it doesn’t feel like a movie that’s over an hour long. This can be only chalked up to MSP’s dominance in cinematography, humor, and all the little things that add up over the course of the film: ambient sound of swishing snow during a powder segment in Japan; the close-up shots of Sean Pettit walking down a street at sunset; the slouching man on a bench seen behind straight-faced Bobby Brown during an interview (the man is Colby West, and at each edit break he’s in a different position, a subtlety masterfully pulled off that might elude those who aren’t paying close attention). This is MSP having fun with its audience, artfully combining just the right amount of humor and interviews with some of the best camerawork and action in the biz.
And that is a story worth seeing.