In a podcast excerpted at first of “The Alpinist,” the rock climber Alex Honnold, from the Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” is requested to call a climber who impresses him. He cites Marc-André Leclerc, a Canadian whom Honnold says takes on a number of the sport’s most tough challenges in “such a pure style.” Honnold’s remarks counsel Leclerc would fortunately ascend in obscurity, conserving his accomplishments between him and the mountains.
“The Alpinist” — directed by Peter Mortimer (who narrates) and Nick Rosen, each specialists in climb documentaries — tries to pin Leclerc down. The difficulties transcend filming him at nice heights on rock faces lined with ice or snow. While the lanky, curly haired, virtually goofy Leclerc proves an affable display screen presence — after we’ve watched him ax his means up an icicle wall within the Canadian Rockies, he describes it nonchalantly as “a really good day out” — his dedication to the documentary is tenuous. At one level, he ditches the filmmakers. When they reconnect, he factors out that the digicam’s presence interferes with the notion of climbing alone: “It wouldn’t be a solo to me if somebody was there.”
The film may stand to demystify how a few of its most terrifying early photographs had been filmed. (Later on, we’re instructed Leclerc agreed to hold a small digicam himself to shoot a part of a conquest in Patagonia.) But it does seize its topic’s philosophy. As with Honnold in “Free Solo,” the movie raises the prospect that Leclerc was innately predisposed towards thrill-seeking. In Argentina, he says he eats each pre-climb dinner as if it could be his final.
Rated PG-13. Dangerous climbs. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. In theaters.