The fishermen persist in their private mythologies and keep up their essential contests, but still they remain close -- amid the most strikingly expansive landscapes you might imagine.
“The biggest mistake made about fishing is that it’s about catching fish,” observes J.T. Van Zandt at the start of Low & Clear. “Fishing,” he goes on, “is a micro examination of life itself.” The film illustrates, not only with the usual images of beautiful streams and rivers, wide skies, and rocky slopes—here shot primarily during a winter flyfishing trip to Canada. The movie rather digs into the “examination” too, offering a version of “life itself” that sets J.T.‘s philosophical bent against that of his favorite fishing partner, mentor, and friend, Alex “Xenie” Hall. While J.T. maintains that the beauty of the activity lies in perfecting techniques, in contemplating the magnificent environment and perhaps one’s place in it, Xeni is more concerned with catching fish. Indeed, he keeps a journal of his catches, as well as a calendar and an extensive visual record. “Photo album after photo album, shoebox after shoebox,” J.T. marvels, “Photos of every fish the guy has ever caught in his life.” Cut to Xeni, not quite explaining, “Just to freeze frame that moment in time, yeah, it’s a little weird.” But, he adds, “Time is precious,” and he resists “dividing it up” into a career or a family. “Right now, [J.T.‘s] behind a desk somewhere, I’m imagining, clutching his cell phone.”