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Review: 'The Alpinist' explores the wondrous life of a reclusive free solo climber

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The Alpinist tells the story of{ } Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc (Roadside Attractions)

The Alpinist
4 out of 5 Stars
Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
Starring: Marc-André Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Alex Honnold
Genre: Documentary
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language and brief drug content

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: The story of the reclusive, brilliant, and young Canadian solo mountain climber Marc-André Leclerc.

Review: I don’t consider myself an outdoorsman. I like the quiet of the mountains and its inspirational views, but I don’t particularly like camping, rafting or long hikes. Dangling from a rockface has never interested me. Part of my disinterest is most certainly fear and a general sense of self-doubt. Still, when I watch films like “Free Solo” or “The Alpinist” I can’t help but wonder what it might feel like. Imagine it. Seeing the world from unfathomable heights from impossible-to-reach places.

I’d never heard of Marc-André Leclerc. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The extent of my knowledge about climbing culture is lifted from a co-worker who climbs, watching documentaries and occasionally running into Alex Honnold (who I only know from documentaries). If you can’t tell, I really liked “Free Solo.” The way it placed you on the mountain with Honnold. The way the tension of every inch upwards filled every frame.

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“The Alpinist” is similar at times to “Free Solo,” but radically different in that it isn’t about one man’s ambition to conquer the unconquered. It’s not Leclerc vs. Mount Slesse. “The Alpinist” is more like unexpectedly catching a glimpse of a rare and exotic bird while wandering through the woods. You chase the magnificent creature, snapping off photos until the bird travels elsewhere and out of sight. The moment leaves a lasting impression.

On the surface Leclerc is somewhat awkward. He’s goofy and aloof. He laughs uncomfortably when the camera is focused on him. He’s also a genius. A savant. A young man in a field dominated by older, more experienced climbers.

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He’s frustratingly hard to keep track of. He doesn’t care about the spotlight. He had a cellphone. It was stolen by wildlife. He’s a nightmare for directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen who bought him a new one that he rarely answers. They traced his movements through other climbers’ social media. Is that Marc in the background? Yes, of course it is.

“The Alpinist” is a film about a brilliant recluse. The kind you’d never know about unless someone was determined enough to make a film about them. Thankfully, Mortimer and Rosen did.