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Super Frenchie

Playing at the Art Center Cinema, tonight at 6p, is “Super Frenchie.”

About the film: BASE jumping is like skydiving, except that participants jump not from airplanes but from Buildings, Antennae, Spans (bridges), or Earth (mountain cliffs). It’s not for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is raising a family—as extreme sports legend Matthias “Super Frenchie” Giraud realizes in this exhilarating, insightful documentary from Chase Ogden. Giraud’s adrenalin-pumping exploits in skiing, parachuting, and BASE jumping are captured by exhilarating camerawork that highlights his no-holds-barred fearlessness. The film would be worth watching just for this footage, but it’s more than a vicarious thrill ride: we also see how Giraud’s character grows and develop when he faces fatherhood. Suddenly, his adventurous bravado has new consequences, and a near-death experience makes Super Frenchie contemplate the effect his pursuits could have on his family. A very likeable, charismatic personality, it’s just as mesmerizing to listen to Giraud’s philosophy and the origins of his unique passion as it is to watch him risk death with new, creative, envelope-pushing jumps. He’s a surprisingly thoughtful and self-aware spokesperson, defying the stereotypes of inarticulate, empty-headed daredevils. Viewers may not completely agree with Giraud’s attitude toward life, and the movie probably won’t convince many of us to jump off a building any time soon, but Super Frenchie does offer unexpected depth, asking us to ponder the nature of bravery, machismo, and “pushing yourself to the limit”—and if that’s always a good idea.

(Unrated; contains mature content.)