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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Cinematography and ski porn
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Thursday, September 22,2011

Cinematography and ski porn

By David Accomazzo

From the opening shots of Solitaire, the new ski film from Sweetgrass Productions, you know you’re in for something different.

The movie begins with a grizzled Argentine actor, Tata Cabral, sitting by a fire, speaking lines inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

“The heavy, mute spell of the wilderness seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast, by the awakening of dark and brutal instincts, by the memory of dark and satisfied passions,” the narrator intones over shots of barren Patagonian plains.

Solitaire, featuring JP Auclair, Kim Havell, Will Cardamone, Chris Erickson and others, has plenty of pornographic moments to satisfy your most prurient interests as a skier, but the rest is unlike any ski film you’ve ever seen. Shot entirely in Patagonia and other parts of South America, the film tackles thematic elements more typical of mountaineering literature — man versus wild, the solitude of the high country, the invisible madness that propels extreme athletes to take extraordinary risks — than your run-of-the-mill ski porn.

Not only that, the cinematography is beautiful, often stunning. Director Nick Waggoner fills the final product with underexposed moving postcards. He takes advantage of the wind-created striations in the snow to create some very visually striking images. There’s every sort of cinematography trick in the book — underexposures, artistic lens flares, match cuts, slow motion, time lapses, crane shots, tracking shots and more.

Waggoner, who did much of the shooting and editing as well, said that on the heels of Sweetgrass’ first two films, Hand Cut and Signatures, he started looking for a different challenge.

“We saw some other film companies repeating the process year after year, pretty much making the same movie, and we didn’t want to do that,” Waggoner says. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and wanted to do something stylistically new. … South America is great for that. It’s super unique; it’s super diverse. Nobody has really ever tackled making a ski film down there before, because it’s super difficult.”

Wind-whipped Patagonia is a notoriously difficult place to access, let alone ski. Waggoner and crew spent days at a time trekking with 90-liter packs over treacherous terrain, including one particularly difficult climb in Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash. They were attempting to ski a glacier that had only been climbed by two people, and they had the most experienced guide in Peru leading them. They were skiing over thin, unstable snow bridges, leaping five-foot crevasses and trying not to damage the expensive equipment they had to bring with them.

“It was pretty fantastic,” Waggoner says. “It was a 22-hour day. In the sun, at altitude, and all of that. I remember coming down, broken. At the end of the day I was so glad to be back at base camp, eating fried chicken. … It’s incredible, that kind of danger, that kind of rawness, being on the edge.”

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