DVD REVIEW: "180° South: Conquerers Of The Useless"

180 South
Every now and again a film comes along that is strikingly beautiful, informant, and artistic. For 180° South, Chris Malloy has outdone himself telling and retelling the story of mountain climbing, surfing, adventure, and conservation of Jeff Johnson (present day) and Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins (forty years ago). Jeff Johnson sought to reinvent, reinterpret, and relive the trip that Chouinard and Tompkins took to Patagonia after having viewed a VHS recording of their adventure. Yvon and Doug are now activists and entrepreneurs, as they are the founders of outdoor gear/clothing outfitters Patagonia and The North Face, respectively. Back then, they were just young men out for adventure as they drove down to South America, stopping along the way to surf, in search of some excellent and dangerous mountain climbing in the Patagonia region of Chile. Jeff Johnson, a surfer, climber, and photographer, decided to hitch a ride on a boat, instead of drive, and take a six month journey to Patagonia in search of the same adventure, stopping along the way at Easter Island after a major seafaring catastrophe. With friends from home and new friends picked up along the way Johnson made it to his final destination, and also to within 200 feet of the summit of Corcovado before having to call it quits because the climb became too dangerous. The filmmaking, cinematography, animations, direction, and production are all cutting edge in their simplicity and artistry. Malloy has outdone himself with this uncharacteristic tale of adventure. The music is excellent and stirring, featuring James Mercer (singer of The Shins and Broken Bells), Ugly Casanova (a side project of Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock), Mason Jennings, and Jack Johnson. In the end the message of conservation put a giant exclamation point on the adventure taken and the film that told its story. For a collective like Woodshed Films, known for their 16mm surf films, 180° South is truly a tangent worth taking and taken well. Maybe for Jeff Johnson's return trip, Malloy and his team of filmmaking storytellers will follow along for the ride. Again.