Yes, the Candide Thovex documentary, Quiksilver’s “Few Words,” was proclaimed 2012’s best documentary at the Powder Video Awards in Park City last week. Great as it was, reminding us all of Candide’s unreal new big mountain game while recounting the various points in the past fifteen-odd years when he’s made ski history, I believe it fell far short of its potential. Maybe it’s because I broke my back (literally, read the article) on his pro model Dynastars, or that I got to see him boost a perfect 360 tail in person – probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen anyone do on skis with my own eyes – that I’m so passionate about this particular ski legend. But whatever the case way, I have to speak up about this film. Stacy Peralta would have given Few Words a B- on a good day.
To start, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when the hyped documentary of your idol, your living exemplar of how to perform the hobby you’re most passionate about, spends a solid chunk interviewing others about how much Candide was supposedly influenced by snowboarding. Richard Permin proclaims that Candide was “the example,” and that for Candide, the example was snowboarding. So basically now you’re telling me that the person who exemplifies the singular qualities that only a skier could exemplify – those tail grabs, those lofty spins, those directional yet leaning slashing turns that are so exceptionally aesthetic compared to the upright norm of the status quo of skiing – all came from snowboarding? Yobeat, and snowboarding in general, I’m so happy for you. Was it Director Matt Pain (a snowboarder)’s secret mission to belittle skiing? Likely not, but after the first fifteen minutes of the film, the film about freeskiing’s Chosen One had reduced skiing to some simple degree of skateboarding. I guess I might as well start playing disc golf on the weekends.
What is perhaps a bigger insult to the audience is the fact that Candide says NOT ONE WORD the entire film. I mean, I know the film is called “Few Words” and there’s all that “let your skiing speak for yourself” bullshit, but I wasn’t expecting it to come together quite this literally. Couldn’t there have been, I don’t know, maybe a few words from Candide, at least? If we could have re-branded it “No Words,” I would have just downloaded all the archived footage of Candide over the past 13 years from Pirate Bay and called it that.
I had been begging for some minor insight into why, oh why, Candide is the person he is, but unless all the unsightful shit came out in the French interviews that I had no subtitles for, all I get is that Candide wanted to be creative and also send it like most of the professional ski ranks, which barely separates him from others who have proclaimed as much in their interviews. I mean, you’re telling me he’s going to gap a 120-foot hip at Powder Superpark out of nowhere and we get not one single piece of insight from the legend about why he felt comfortable or inspired to do so???? Do you think no one ever made Michael Jordan sit down for an interview ever in his life and explain himself??? Yeah, and then let’s just follow that up by brushing over that cork 810 to rail slide he did the next year, because it was just another “crazy” thing he did. Is this a documentary about Ken Gusworthy, or Candide Thovex??
The biggest benefit from this production is that Candide remains, despite his affable in-person demeanor, a complete enigma. Any serious documentarian would have probed a bit more into why the most gifted, well-rounded, and styliest skier in skiing (in my humble judgment) is the way he was as a person, but instead we just get an explanation of the timeline of his ski career and a celebration of the fact that he is awesome. The major benefit is buying this film is having 60 minutes of archived Thovex footage in one package we would not have seen otherwise (see Pirate Bay comment).
I have to believe there’s more to Candide than snowboarding and wanting to one-up an old former French mogul champion. The best anecdote, and the closest we get to a serious insight, is when Kris Ostness when explaining that Candide “very quietly” came up to Chad Kurinskas and asked him if he could hit his gap – Chad’s Gap – which had never been cleared before, and then cleaned it with a 120-foot mute grab after slamming into the landing (110-foot gap to knuckle or thereabouts) multiple times. After being goaded by his Quiksilver colleagues into doing a spin, he came back the next year and, after smacking into the knuckle a couple more times, greases what Todd Jones correctly asserts is the most beautiful D-spin 720 he’d ever seen. On his first try.
And I am compelled to mention a basic, basic rule of documentaries: NO SUNGLASSES DURING INTERVIEWS. Don’t’ you know that visible eyeballs are so essential to establishing that emotional connection with viewers? If you’re being paid by Quiksilver to make a movie about one of the most transcendental skiers of all time, I don’t know why I’m even mentioning this.
When we get to the Candide Invitational, when the legend of our sport just wanted to “have fun” and “go crazy” with jumps that were absofuckalotely insane. Unless, of course, having fun means jumping 60 feet through an o-ring of snow, skiing over that while someone jumps through it, stalling on a 30-foot high log, or gapping a 100-foot step-down kicker. Sounds like my Sunday Fundays! Why no one could delve into why Candide felt compelled to build not only the biggest, but the most insane features, and guinea pig then so smoothly without a helmet, and then break his back doing so on a warm day when the snow was getting stickier and slower by the minute (i.e. when it was not a good idea to do so), is beyond me. It’s like jerking off on a pile of gold.
The beauty of a Peralta film, and the reason why that name means something beyond the skateboard or surf communities, is because the man is exceptionally skilled at telling the human side of action sports. The exceptional athletic feats, like the first above-the-lip fronstide air by Tony Alva in the 70’s or the suicidal Teahupoo barrel greased by Laird Hamilton, are peaks in the films that are built up to by thorough examinations of who these people are as people and why they got to this point as a person, as well as an athlete. This is why Dogtown and Z Boys and Riding Giants have become much broader spectacles and fascinating films for the mainstream. But without doing the difficult work of building an emotional and human context in which Candide’s singular ski talent can be understood and appreciated, one of skiing’s most incredible personas will likely remain another nameless Superman to the general public, and that is a serious lost opportunity.