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PSYCHE is the brand new dvd from Posing Productions. Produced by multi-award winning film maker Alastair Lee. Alastair is renowned for his innovative camera work and creative editing and rates this latest production is his most spectacular yet. Incorporating the best of British climbing featuring Steve McClure, Andy Kirkpatrick & Ian Parnell and Dave Birkett. The three main films on the dvd are; MAGIC NUMBERS (sport), PATAGONIAN WINTER (alpine and SKYE WALL (trad) - and Extras.
Dave Birkett on the first ascent of Sky Wall E7/8 6b , Isle of Skye.
© Alastair Lee
£19.99 from posingproductions.com
Watch the trailer: here
“Watch us wreck the mic, Watch us wreck the mic, Watch us wreck the mic .........PSYCHE!”
Hopefully most of you will be unfamiliar with PJ and Duncan's 'rap' abomination from 1994 but, for obvious reasons, the chorus from the cheeky duo's first crime against culture has been on constant loop in my head ever since I was asked to review the Psyche DVD. This negative association is a big handicap for Posing Productions' latest release to overcome and for me to actually end up liking this film it was going to have to deliver something pretty special!
Title aside, first impressions are pretty good. The cover photo is a
study in concentration and effort and the fact that it makes Raven Tor
look like somewhere I'd actually like to climb demonstrates a filmic
talent way above the ordinary. So it proves with the first of the three
main features on the DVD; a film about Steve McClure. The film starts with
the in-no-way-weak Rupert Davies paying homage to the smallness of the
holds and the difficulty of the climbing on Mutation, the first of
Steve's super routes with which he has made his name. After that we go on
a whistle stop tour of his other first ascents beginning with
Rainshadow at Malham. It's heartening to see Steve getting the recognition he
deserves and equally heartening to see the world class climbing Malham
has to offer, above the point where most mortals choose to lower off, in
terms of both difficulty and quality. Unfortunately the best bit of
this particular section is tucked away in the extras where we can see
Steve re-climb Rainshadow in its entirety. I don't know why this doesn't
feature as part of the main film; it ought to and would, in fact, have
been the best bit of it.
From Malham the action moves to Kilnsey and the 'up to datedness' of the film is emphasised as we get to see Steve work his latest project. At this rarefied level the grades are meaningless to most but suffice to say it is of an order of difficulty that will keep anyone one with an interest in the cutting edge of climbing interested. More importantly from the film's point of view it also covers some spectacular ground and Alistair Lee's expertise in capturing this is there to see.
© Ian Parnell
The second film follows Dave Birkett as he makes the first ascent of Skye Wall. This trad E8 is on a wall stunning enough to make any superlative I can think of seem inadequate and it is here that the film really comes into its own. I was blown away by the photography and camera work in Set in Stone (Alistair Lee's previous film about Dave Birkett) and I'm similarly impressed here. The film does a magnificent job of capturing the climb and the area with all sorts of camera work I don't have the expertise to describe but which adds up to a sumptuous film and this section benefits from having a definite tale to tell.
From here it's a big change of emphasis as we shift scene to Patagonia
and an attempt at the first winter ascent of Torre Egger by those
suffer-fest stalwarts Ian Parnell and Andy Kirkpatrick. I've often wondered
what drives people to winter alpine climbing in such remote locations
and thanks to this film I think I have a better idea. Unfortunately the
pair fail to make much of an impression on their objectives which
leaves the film a little short on hard core action. However, Andy
Kirkpatrick didn't get to be regarded as the most entertaining of climbing
lecturers for nothing and between them he and Parnell kept me very amused and
the camera work was excellent, a real surprise considering it was all
self filmed. If some respects their self deprecating humour does them a
disservice as we get little idea of the privations they must have gone
through on the trip so there is little sense of drama to engage the
viewer but, that said, it was a revealing window into this type of
climbing for those who, like me, have wondered at the attractions and
Throw in some well worth watching extras and this all adds up to an excellent, value for money, film which I've no doubt will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in climbing. To be fair there is little that could make me warm to PJ and Duncan, even in their modern incarnation as purveyors of crap TV and phone line swindlers Ant and Dec, and this film doesn't quite manage it. That said it's a brilliantly filmed and entertaining showcase of British climbers and climbing and is varied enough to maintain interest whist being comprehensive enough to give its subjects the treatment they deserve. If I have a criticism it is that the DVD lacks a defining moment; Birkett's success on his route is the only film that reaches a definite climax and even there the result never seemed in doubt. On the other hand it contains something that few climbing films manage to pull off and that's humour. As well as Andy Kirkpatrick's wry take on winter alpinism it has many other comic moments that made me laugh or smile and what more could you want from a film than to be entertained, inspired and uplifted?
Steve McClure on Overshadow, 9a+, Malham Cove, North Yorkshire
UKC Articles, Jul 2007
© Keith Sharples
View the PSYCHE trailer here
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