“Chasing Ice” follows National Geographic photographer and founder of the Extreme Ice Survey study of glacial change James Balog on his quest to illustrate climate change through time-lapse images from cameras set around Iceland, Greenland and Alaska. Beauty in dissolution shimmies between the Scylla of Crewdson and the Charybdis of Burtynsky. It’s elevated imagery about terrible things, a movie to warm the cockles of Adbusters’ resident art-director-cum-ghoul Kalle Lasn despite the film’s struggle to leave its politics implicit. Director Jeff Orlowski has said he’s made a movie for everyone, even the most ardent climate-change skeptic. Even post-Sandy, can they be so readily disabused? The spectacle of calving massifs of necessary planetary survival assets is undeniable. It’s gorgeous filmmaking, with insistent grandeur to replace the grim, formal character of “Manufactured Landscapes,” about Edward Burtynsky’s vistas of industrial ruin. But it still leaves you unmoored, then unsorted—what to do once there is not enough ice cap left to chill shaken gin martinis for everyone left in the lifeboat? The ultimate survivors will have no truck with the splendidly pictorial. Winner of 2012’s Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary. 74m. DCP. (Ray Pride)
“Chasing Ice” opens Friday at the Music Box. A gallery of Balog’s work is here. An excerpt is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.