A very straightforward goal — walking cross-country in an effort to stop smoking — takes anything but straightforward filmic form in Peter Liechti’s Swiss “Lucky Jack.” At times pretentious, but beautifully assembled and in the end curiously uplifting, this very personal docu is a strong piece of essayistic impressionism that successfully transcends its surface self-absorption. Fests, experimental showcases and artcasters should take note.
Liechti decides to kick his 30-year habit by hiking from current home in Zurich to childhood one in St. Gallen, where his retired parents still live. They’re terribly cheerful; the helmer is not, his voiceover musings stressing a sometimes misanthropic gloom that risks self-parody (e.g. “A thick, glutinous boredom slowly spread over the whole gray lake area”). Yet the warmth and humor of what his camera observes — in what turns out to be three separate journeys — often contradict the suffering-artist air. Stream-of-consciousness tenor encompasses the landscape, wildlife, kitschy local festivals, encounters with strangers and friends, even flashbacks to the Nazi past and his own prior filmmaking adventures. Helmer’s superb eye and Tania Stocklin’s exceptional editing somehow keep all digressions in focus, to an end result at once ambiguous and profound.