Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Low and Clear" The Bonding power of Brooks, Barbs, and Bull Trout

In this heavyfooted, soaring documentary about two different men who take a journey to Canada, Nothing is left guarded; and this is the stuff documentary dreams are made of. We are shown JT Van Zandt, delicately gliding out to the Gulf one morning, amidst a few palms and orange sunrise. He tells us that there is no way to hide the personalities that come out when fishing, in a quiet early morning honesty with an almost dreamlike surrounding.

When asked to be privileged enough to pre-screen this before release, I gladly excepted with the utterly wrong notion that it was a documentary about fly fishing. I knew I would not be bored, as I like the outdoors, but I simply do not love them as much as some people. Doesn't matter. Break down all your preconceived notions and buckle up for a ride with two different people who met in the mountains of Colorado. JT first tells us in the Gulf that first morning that "It's as if you are seeing a beautiful woman, you don't have the ability to do anything except what naturally comes in the situation" while fishing.

The first time we are shown Alex known as "Xenie" in the film, he is swearing profusely at the steep winds and inability to do things exactly his way during a quick cast of the line. He is a timber man, an ultimate Paul Bunyan; who hauls wood around the mountains and has a passion for fishing maybe unmatched by anyone alive. He keeps meticulous records, and has tens of thousands of photographs of catches. I thought of the 1970's novel "Sometimes a Great Notion" about Hank Stamper, the logging man of the Pacific Northwest.

Immediately recognizing that Xenie's temper is absolutely what makes him a good fisherman, JT makes a few phone calls and organizes a trip to Canada with his nearly long lost pal, who lives on his own terms while JT is very caught up on the phone, in a marina rental/refurbishing type of business. Even though he is close to the water, JT feels as if his fishing has been neglected, and the two set off to Canada to do what they do best.

As the two start to clash and still embrace what they love with the anguish of any fine artist or author, one of the top three moments in film of the last year occurs. Xenie makes his first catch of the trip, kneels in the water and proclaims, "I'm healed!!!" and giggles and nearly cries with glee. The rushing water, snow capped peaks, and freshness of it all takes you right along with them, feeling your boots a little wet and the different lures in your flannel pocket.

A pristine craft produced by Kahlil Hudson from Alaska; someone who has Discovery Channel notches on his belt, this really begins to soar about 20 minutes in. We are told that the mountain men who made America don't get much respect anymore, and about the lost culture of the respect of land. Living in Colorado for seven years myself, I saw some of the familiar peaks and valleys off of I-70 that I had known and wandered in. These catapulted me into a heap of questions needing metaphysical and spiritual answers in my college days.

A profile of how the most peaceful valley can breed angst, I am amazed at the perfection in this story. "Film lite" or watered down fluff has a certain potential for profit these days. And when you give people something gritty that is not film lite, like "Kids" amongst other films showed us in the 90's, we true connoisseurs chew it slowly and value it's integrity. "Low and Clear" is a homage to the stress of a relationship, the beauty of America, and the sorcery of fine craft.

We all need healing in these times of near feudalism and strife, and here we are given a sliver. Hopefully convincing cubicle dwellers, students, and stressed out people everywhere to don hiking boots and get out into the wild, "Low and Clear" shines immensely, an achievement of the most exciting caliber.

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