Review of Pure, a Bouldering Film by Chuck Fryberger

by Tom Markiewicz on February 22, 2009

Pure, a bouldering film by Chuck FrybergerFriday night I attended the world premier of Pure in Boulder. After watching the trailer and speaking with the filmmaker, Chuck Fryberger, I was highly anticipating Pure. I still had some apprehension though. As more climbing films are released, I’m starting to get the feeling climbers are becoming jaded. How many more ways are there to approach climbing films?

Well, I was quite wrong in that regard. Chuck Fryberger’s Pure takes the genre to a new level. Pure was one of the more unique climbing films I’ve seen. This may be good or bad depending on your preferences. Let me explain a bit further.

From the opening, the viewer is struck by the beautiful cinematography of the film. Strong climbers and spectacular climbing areas are combined with an outstanding soundtrack for maximum impact. To be honest, I think the music in many climbing films is a liability, but in Pure I felt it added tremendously to the experience.

The overarching vision of Pure was to look at strong boulderers at areas across the globe while experiencing their approach to bouldering and its “purity”. In this regard, the film succeeded.

However, if you’re a fan of watching extended, intricate, and detailed climbing sequences of an entire problem, you may disappointed with Pure. Chuck forsakes showing the complete sends of many problems for the overall artistry of the film. The viewer will often only see the crux of the problem or a particularly exciting sequence of moves. You’re not going to watch many boring top-outs in Pure. Actually, one of the few top-outs shown in the film was quite interesting as some of the boulders in Innsbruck were snow covered for the sends.

Much of the bouldering footage was done in what I could best describe as stop motion. I was not the complete, flowing movement you’re used to seeing in other climbing films. Instead of showing entire sequences, Pure was more action oriented, skipping to the best moves in the problem. I found this exciting to watch, though I suspect there will be some viewers who will not like this approach.

Some of the featured climbers in Pure included Nalle Hukkataival, Kevin Jorgeson, Cody Roth, Kilian Fischhuber, Anna Stoehr, and Fred Nicole. They were shown bouldering at Rocklands, South Africa; Sonoma County, California; Fountainebleu, France; Innsbruck, Austria; Vail, Colorado; Arco, Italy; and The Vallei, Magic Wood, and Brione, Switzerland.

I had the impression watching Pure that there was a heavy dose of Nalle Hukkataival. This was not necessarily a negative though, because Nalle was extremely impressive to watch as he crushed problems. But it did seem there was a disproportionate amount of him in Pure.

The opening footage of the Rocklands was spectacular even though we’ve all seen video from there before. Kevin Jorgeson bouldering along the coastline in Somona, California was unique as it’s not quite well known for its bouldering. But as Kevin said in the film: what it lacks for in quantity, it makes up for in the quality of the lines.

I did think there was going to be more footage in Colorado. Now that I’m a resident, I can’t help but be interested in seeing more of my local areas. Colorado is listed on the film’s web site, but the only Colorado climbing in Pure was of the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.

This leads me to my only other minor complaint. I found it unusual to see footage of climbing competitions in Pure (Vail and Arco). I’m not necessarily against this, but it seemed a little out of place with the rest of the film. If taken in the context of following Nalle Hukkataival around the world bouldering, it makes more sense; but I don’t think this was a documentary of Nalle. Don’t get me wrong, the footage of these comps was great, but it just didn’t seem to fit in as seamlessly as everything else.

I also took a brief survey of some of my various climber friends in attendance and the response was very positive. The only negatives brought up were the ones I’ve mentioned above and are really minor depending on your pre-conceived notions of climbing films.

Overall, I really enjoyed Pure. It’s not a movie you’re going to watch to acquire exact beta for a problem, but the film takes you to these climbing areas and immerses you in the action. Pure will get you psyched to climb and in my opinion that’s the purest test of great climbing flick.

A few other notes from the Pure premier:

  • A trailer was shown for Rocky Mountain Highball. One word – awesome! The premier of this film is in Boulder on April 27, 2009. This is also the due date of my first child. My wife was not pleased when I said I hoped the baby comes late so I could go to the premier…
  • Mike Brooks of interviewed me briefly before the show. It was loud and I was drinking beer so I cannot be held accountable for anything stupid I may have said.
  • For his train of thought impressions of the film, Boulder Diaries took live notes during the premier.
  • Some complained on Chuck’s site about the computerized narrated voice in the trailer. It didn’t bother me at all, but it is still used to transition between the high level sections of the climbing areas in the movie.
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