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BillHALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2015
This is an enjoyable and eye-opening documentary style film about a climb up Mount Fitz Roy. It's not a good watch if you suffer from vertigo. Back in 1968 a group of American friends who are surfer dudes, and into mountain climbing, take a camper van on an epic road trip, a 10,000 mile journey through South America, culminating in a visit to Patagonia and an ascent of Mount Fitz Roy. Thirty something years later, another surfer, a forty-something guy named Jeff Johnson, decides to replicate the amazing adventure, and he sets out by a long sea journey rather than in a camper van, even though he's no salty sea dog... The film flits back and forth between interviews with the guys who took part in the 1968 expedition, and Jeff's mission to repeat their feats. Along the way Jeff meets up with some friends in Patagonia, Keith and Timmy, who are going to help him on the adventure. Jeff's travels take him to some absolutely stunning locations like Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and he meanders amiably from one breathtaking destination to the next, sailing, surfing and backpacking as he follows in the footsteps of the men who went before him very many years earlier... This docu-drama has some lovely cinematography and an interesting, moving voiceover by the lead character. The pic is a bit like one of those Top Gear specials, where Clarkson and his mates go on an extended road trip through an exotic or hostile location, only this movie doesn't have a comedic element. It's a metaphorical lesson about having no fears and regrets in life, about reaching out for your dreams, and making the most of the one chance that you'll get at life. It has a very relaxed pace, with gentle, folksy music, and at times it does feel a bit like a 90 minute advert for the beauties of South America.Read more ›
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Wisdom and stunning cinematography combined!4 Sept. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
The core conversation for me - the symbolism of walking towards the edge of a cliff. Rather than 'turning back' it's all about making a 180 degree turn and then 'stepping forward'. And this is only one of many jewels of wisdom and cinematography in a wonderfully honest and understated journey of a man who understands that nothing replaces the experience of going to beautiful and wild places. It grounds you and makes you really love a place - and then you feel the need to protect it. I had no idea what I would see when I randomly stumbled over this film, but I watched it twice that very evening only to watch it again.
72 of 91 people found the following review helpful
This film is the narrative of one man who is disaffected by the excesses of society and tries to simplify his life by casting himself into the unknown of adventure. With the goal of being the second person to climb Corcovado Volcano in Patagonia, he follows in the footsteps of several men who came before him in the 1960s. The message is a positive one of conservationism, and by just watching the protagonist trek around, you'll wish you were there getting lost with him. It is beautifully shot with an equally great soundtrack of subdued folk songs, including Mason Jennings' recent hit which is featured during the end credits.
But, the film's positive message is easily lost in the narcissism and vainglory of its characters. Through their own terrible self-narration, they come across as overly privileged, preachy, self-righteous, White bourgeois whiners. With their strong anti-corporate and anti-government bias, one is left only to feel that they are arrogant, hypocritical slackers who want the world out of their way so they can have a good time. The protagonist shows none of the modesty inherent to conservationism and spends much time preening around with his shirt off. There is much irony in how he criticizes everyone from city dwellers to video-game players, when it is the indentured condition of these groups which allows him the freedom to be a slacker and explore the natural world.
Also, the film's presentation of the collapse of Easter Island society is one-sided without nuance or context. The film argues that present day civilization is heading towards a similar collapse if we don't change our ways and live like the characters presented in the film. Again, this is ironic because if everyone lived as an overly privileged slacker, there would be no one to create the means which makes being a slacker possible.
Ultimately, the film serves little more than a large advertizement for Patagonia Apparel and Kashi Cereal. The positive message would have come through more clearly had its makers simply presented things the way they are and avoided preaching. Accordingly, while the film offers some awesome shots of surfing contrasted with mountain trekking and technical climbing, in order to enjoy the beauty and adventure aspect of this film, one must overlook the confused and discombobulated message of its makers.
25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
What's Useless About It?15 Jun. 2010
Karl E. Weaver
- Published on Amazon.com
This movie is a documentary, but it's a little hard to categorize. I think I'd really call it a POLEMIC- against Western capitalist culture, which is dominating most of the world at present (since even so-called "third world" countries are intent on emulating the successes of capitalism). How DO you describe a movie that encompasses sailing, surfing, mountain-climbing, retracing a climb made in 1968 by world-class climbers, lectures about the evils of dams and environmental destruction, a commercial plug for protecting Patagonia, the history of Easter Island, and philosophical musings and mumblings, all wrapped together and packaged with some of the most idiosyncratic music score I've ever listened to in a movie? [I don't know what to call this music-it's mostly one-voice, accompanied by guitar or other simple instrumentals-it sounds sort of folksy-rustic-country, but nothing that I've ever heard before. Sometimes it was irritating, and sometimes I really enjoyed it].
The subtitle, Conquerors of the Useless, refers principally to the whole activity of mountain-climbing. Risking your very life--for what? To stand for a few minutes or an hour on top of a piece of rock, then climb back down again. Does the world need this activity? Why do some people feel compelled to do it (or so many other extreme things that we seem compelled to do, for no clear gain) That becomes a metaphor for the whole question of what is "useful" and what is "useless"--for the world, for mankind as a species, for our survival.
The narrator solemnly asserts things like, "I'm beginning to think...(you know, differently about the world). I'm rather suspicious that he more or less had these same views before he even set out on his journey, and simply used the journey to reinforce them. But-no matter. The issues are serious and relevant. Now, after the gulf oil spill, the whole debate about how we use our environment, and whether we have a sustainable civilization at all, certainly seems more highly relevant today than when this film was made.
Hard to characterize. Serious and whimsical. Focused and unfocused. Some beautiful scenery. My favorite quote is not the obvious one (on the cover) but "It's really very difficult to simplify your life. It's very easy to let it become complex." If you are an ardent environmentalist you'll probably enjoy the film. If you are not an environmentalist, then try watching it with an open mind. You really do not have to believe everything the narrator asserts to find this film interesting. It could be the starting-point of a hundred arguments or discussions (a great film actually, for various college-level classes to discuss).
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Nice travel vid19 Feb. 2013
David W. Kikuchi
- Published on Amazon.com
The film is - as other reviewers have pointed out - really well filmed, with good cinematographic values and some breathtaking transitions. Spoiler alert - there's a detour to Easter Island - and the way that the narrator takes it in stride really immersed me in the openness of possibility, of just letting yourself drift to new places. The climbing and the surfing shots are awesome, no one can argue that.
Stop reading now if cool images are all you want to get out of this video.
I have to admit I couldn't deal with the manipulative, simpleminded eco-preaching or the lack of depth that the characters are drawn in. The narrator is a simple-hearted drifter, his surfer girl hookup is a feminist pioneer in surfing with a Polynesian look, the Chilean fisherman they meet in Patagonia is a simple man with a simple life whose coastline is threatened by a papermill. Everything is too slick, too corporate; the coolness and friendliness are too moderated. Yvon Chouinard also seemed to really want an excuse to say that he'd met Jared Diamond with the inclusion of the whole Easter Island collapse spiel. A documentary about dirtbag drifting is not going to have any serious commentary on the direction of human society unless it's written by Hunter S. Thompson. As someone who's spent a good bit of my life researching the natural world, it's sort of infuriating to hear such banal tripe, as though all we have to do to live forever as a people is stop being materialistic (read: buy TNF and Patagonia, not Nike and Levi's) and buy local, whatever that means these days. I have a lot of sympathy for harnessing human greed to fund conservation, but not the concomitant propaganda.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful Adventure Tourism, but...4 Dec. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Put me in the category of entertained by the film. There are surprising views in nearly every frame, and this is about adventures and personal quests. That it is a documentary is a bonus here - you do gain some insight about the challenge of the journey - and the soundtrack is great (I bought e-tracks of some of the tunes).
Call me jaded, but at times the whole impression I was taking away from the experience was to ask myself "how do you get to the place where you can afford such an extravagant trip and so much time off to do it?" I was coming to terms with this just being some kind of boondoggle, characterized by rampant consumerism, by the end of the film.
And in the end that's what compromised the beautiful scenic shots of Easter Island and Patagonia for me. I was entertained and enjoyed watching, but at the same time, there were those nagging and annoying second thoughts about how really altruistic this kind of tourism is.