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Solarmax

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2001 7:33 a.m. MDT

A blessed escape: That's what many of us are looking for on the movie screen. Either that or we're hoping the film will pitch us to an unfamiliar angle on the world.

"Solarmax," the latest large-format film to climb onto the six-story Cricket SuperScreen at Jordan Commons, provides both thrilling escapism and astonishing views of reality.

Starting at the North Pole, "Solarmax" shows a wild sky of whooshing clouds — seen from the top of an Earth driven by the engine we call "sun." Then narrator Alex Scott, in his regal British accent, whisks us to an array of places that seem especially close to the sky. Lake Titicaca and its Island of the Sun, high in the Andes. Looming over the lost city of Machu Picchu in Peru, the gargantuan rock that the Incas named "the Hitching Post of the Sun." The Sea of Japan, where the salmon-toned sun stops your breath as it rises like a benevolent face above the water.

We're treated to a performance of the aurora borealis, waving across the night sky like drapes opening around a theater. The big show that comes next is footage of the sun's surface: roiling, red-orange and growing more so by the minute.

Clearly "Solarmax's" creators didn't need to resort to computer-generated special effects. Instead they filmed real life: the royal-blue surface of Earth's oceans, seen from a spacecraft; the equally stunning sights of a solar eclipse, the northern lights and sunwashed locales on all five continents.

But the film isn't only a mural of spectacular images. Scott's narration delivers scientific information in graceful language and mentions the work of Aristotle, Copernicus and Galileo. He adds a cerebral — though not overly technical — dimension to "Solarmax," making the movie more substantial than some of its lovelier cousins, such as the large-format "Dolphins" and "Alaska."

"Solarmax" eyes the sun from many vantage points. In a sense, the film is a relief, since we're lifted above the Earth, above national boundaries and conflicts. We see instead the overarching sun, in all its fury and beauty, with its power to give life and to destroy it. During the 40-minute ride, we gain a new perspective on, and hopefully a fresh appreciation for, the natural world.

"Solarmax" is not rated but would probably receive a G by today's standards. Running time: 40 minutes.


E-MAIL: durbani@desnews.com