on the lookout for a lost nature


Summit meeting (of the Tibetan plateaus) between wildlife photographer Vincent Munier and travel writer Sylvain Tesson. the snow panther transposes the story of the same name, published by Gallimard, which won Sylvain Tesson the Renaudot Prize in 2019.

The dramaturgy of the documentary, following the thread of the conversations between the hermit photographer and the globetrotter, works in a somewhat expected way on the pulls of humanity and its relationship with the exhaustion of the planet. To hell with humans and their eternal thirst for domination and short-term vision: here, man makes himself very small and hides himself to let nature and the movements of wild animals happen, like income since time immemorial.

We are almost on another planet, between documentary and genre cinema. Certain animals appear to us as ghosts, with their brown fur, wearing their ancestral horns, like the wild yaks depicted in magnificent abstract paintings, while one would swear that a deer is looking at us from the camera. Whistleblower, giver of lessons? Tomorrow, it seems to tell us, it is the animals that will rule, at least if they still exist.

We enter the documentary with muffled footsteps, to the sound of Vincent Munier’s whispered voice, the film dispensing its stunning images by the dropper. The photographer has made his childhood dreams his profession, ever since his father gave him a camera at age 12, teaching him to tame his fears – on a previous trip, the white wolves he had been watching for a long time had finally approached him, some physically taunting him as he pulled out his case.

surreal images

Within the snow panther, waiting and hiding are just as important, if not more so, than the screenshot. The film deftly reveals, without exaggeration, behind the scenes, that is, the day-to-day life of a small team of four trudging to more than 4,000 meters of altitude in temperatures of -25 ohC or less 30 ohagainst

Munier discovered the snow leopard through the accounts of American biologist George B. Schaller. On his first trip to Tibet in 2011, he didn’t know what to expect. Would he see her or not? Would he walk past this rock?

While waiting for this moment, the story cleverly mixes animal appearances: Tibetan antelopes, foxes that look like cats in boots, etc. –, as well as the meeting with a family of Tibetan nomads. Tesson’s poetry ignites with surreal imagery, while Warren Ellis’ soundtrack, sung by Nick Cave, is minimalist. Whether his highness ends up walking in front of this camouflaged mini-camera or takes another path, it doesn’t matter, he will remain as a new incarnation of the ghost of paradisee (1974), by Brian DePalma.

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