As far as the French are concerned, it seems, that apple never hit Isaac Newton's head. From Cirque du Soleil to parkour to Philippe Petit in 2008's Man on Wire, Gallic types have lately been showing the world their disdain for gravity to exhilarating effect. The adrenaline junkies of I Believe I Can Fly: Flight of the Frenchies fall—or more to the point, soar—right into the pattern.
The work of filmmaker and mountain guide Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, the 40-minute feature (available at sebmontaz.com) chronicles the BASE jumping and highlining adventures of the 36-year-old Chamonix native and his daredevil friends. Set amid the French Alps and Norwegian fjords, the film mostly employs visual over verbal exposition, essentially throwing viewers off the cliff with its stars.
The casualness with which these twentysomethings tumble off bluffs armed with a parachute they deploy only at the last instant is astonishing. It's something most of us experience only through CGI or a stress-induced nightmare. But there's no screaming or swearing here, only whoops of joy, set to a reggae soundtrack. One guy hangs by his toes from a highline (a nylon cord like a flat tightrope with give) strung between two cliffs and then lets go, swinging on a rope and harness hundreds of feet deep into the valley. Mid-dive, he calls out to his friend pragmatically, "Yes, it can be done," as if the other option were no more worrisome than a pomme-sized bump on the head.
Montaz-Rosset insists that the participants are of sound mind. "They're not kamikazes," he says. But he's not blind to the risks; a future film will document a friend's recovery from a jumping accident. In the meantime, the worldwide reaction to his film has given the thrill-seeker a new rush. "[Viewers] find that the values of our sport—pushing limits, having doubts and fears—have links with regular life," he says. "That's really nice."
THEY SAID IT
"It was a true honor to be so close to such a legend."
DAN ROLLMAN President of the website recordsetter.com, upon witnessing competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi devour 7.5 pounds of turkey in 10 minutes last week.
COURTESY OF SÉBASTIEN MONTAZ-ROSSET (MOVIE)