DVD: 47:48 minutes
Volcano Motion Pictures $29.95
A journey like no other, for a flyfisher anyway, may soon meet your DVD player. There are a number of books on the construction and history of bamboo fly rod making, and they are all impressive tomes for any bookcase. David Duncan's documentary, Trout Grass, is the perfect companion to these because it puts faces on the art of splining, planing, wrapping and ultimately bending bamboo over our favorite crease in the current.
It's one thing to find photos of bamboo growing along the hillside, or see bamboo adorning a neighbor's garden. It it an entirely different matter to see footage of laborers in China's Guangdong Province harvesting hillsides of our beloved cane, wheeling half-ton loads down hillsides at frightening speeds in ancient carts, and then sorting, drying and packaging the material in preparation for a 10,000 mile trip around the planet. And the difficult work hasn't even begun. Fly rod artisans now must split and whittle the cane, only to join it later as part of some 4,000 individual procedures before a flyfisher can take the art one final step further in the act of casting fur and feathers toward his prey.
Nature informs art, which returns us to nature--that would seem to be Duncan's well-balanced perspective he wants us to appreciate throughout his film. At this he succeeds admirably. Guest star appearances by Thomas McGuane and Hoagy Carmichael help deliver the message along the way by reminding us that the cultural heritage of our sport has roots deeper than we might have imagined.
The DVD production notes help deliver the message further. These are the notes that are usually passed up when we try to fuss with DVD online menus. The notes from the writer, the producer and the composer of the lovely banjo and violin scores provide an historical and cultural context to the film that shouldn't be passed up.
Duncan doesn't demystify the bamboo fly rod. No ones wants to be demystified when it comes to art. Instead, we want the mystery illuminated. This is what motivates us to pursue or abandon a sport or any other activity. If we figured it all out, there wouldn't be anything else to do. And those who act like they've figured it all out, generally bore us. Duncan's work will not bore, even if your fancy doesn't incline you toward bamboo.
--Toney J. Sisk
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