Why the hell not? Ski movies have used every other production element available to enhance their end product. Producers use helicopters, helmet cams, cranes, drones, heck they even use a second helicopter to shoot film of the first helicopter shooting film of the skier ripping down the mountain. So why the hell not include something totally unexpected and add dramatic elements and vignettes that have nothing to do with skiing but that tell a story in between the usual slices of big-mountain ripping that we have all come to love in this sub-genre of action sports films.
In Super Proof’s 2014 outing “The Recruitment”, the team laid down their first attempt at creating a fictional background for the skiers. The choice of route went far beyond other story telling attempts portraying the skiers as soul-searching drifters looking for a place to call home (see Sweetgrass’ 2013 work “Valhalla”) and was certainly on a different road from the documentary/true story-style outings (see Matchstick’s 2013 “McConkey”). No, this type of story telling had nothing to do with skiing, really. What we got was a strange series of kidnappings and beatings that director Leigh Powis blended with extreme close-ups of nature and wrapped it in an off-beat sound track to create an almost abstract, David Lynch style work. The drama sequences raised more questions than they answered and honestly, the film had me scratching my head for some time afterwards.
The Masquerade continues this “Blue Velvet” meets Warren Miller type vibe. The mountain vistas are beautiful in all their HD glory, the skiing is what you would expect when you point guys like Sean Pettit and Richard Permin downhill and the dramatic sequences are, well, bizarre. Watching The Masquerade is like watching a European art film in some second year university course; you get the feeling that the weird, disconnected bits are supposed to be a metaphor for something else but you have no clue as to what. And then it gets doubly confusing when those weird, disconnected bits are the ski sequences and then you remember this is a ski movie. Around that point, you begin to think, “maybe I shouldn’t take so much Sudafed. What am I missing here?”
The Masquerade’s story-line about an underground gambling ring ties up at the end a little neater than the storyline in The Recruitment, so there’s a few less WTF questions going on in my brain this time round. The music is used predominantly as background score and not cut to picture rock-video style, and that definitely differentiates it from every other ski movie out there. No name cards are used to identify the skier on screen so you’re never completely sure who’s making the run and that certainly contributes to the abstract nature of the movie. It’s less a promo film for the individual skiers and more a group effort showcasing state of the art/sport skiing. But when you mix all this with the drama, whether it be this story line or something else, does it work in this format? Personally, I love people taking creative risks so I’m going to say “keep it up” because it means we have a bigger variety overall in the genre. But my guess is that most ski porn aficionados are going to be confounded by all this. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail