Nathanael Hood is hooked by THE LURE (2016) DOC NYC 2016
It’s a pity that Werner Herzog didn’t make a film about the Fenn Treasure, a 10-inch by 10-inch, 42 pound chest containing over a million dollars of gold and jewels buried somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Hidden by art dealer and ex-Air Force pilot Forrest Fenn after a near-fatal bout with cancer in 1988, countless treasure seekers have devoted their lives to locating it (a handful of them going missing in the process). The only clues to its location are in a cryptic poem at the end of his book The Thrill of the Chase. This story contains all the earmarks of a Herzog masterpiece: man battling nature, the struggle of impossible dreams, a cast of eccentric loners. But thankfully the Fenn Treasure has been relegated to the care of fellow documentarian Tomas Leach. The resulting film The Lure is marvelous, equal parts tone poem and decentralized detective thriller. He never once tries to wheedle the location of the treasure from Fenn; he doesn’t even linger on the poem and its possible hints. Leach is interested first and foremost on the allure of the unobtainable. He introduces us to a handful of obsessed treasure hunters: an ex-computer programmer who abandoned his suffocating corporate life in California to become a cowboy; an ex-police officer who found new purpose in life through the hunt after a terrible injury forced her premature retirement; two young women completely out of their element with dreams of nice apartments and guest appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and a whole host of assorted wanderers, dreamers, and run-of-the-mill hobbyists. Crucially, Leach doesn’t identify their names until an end credits montage, transforming them from ordinary people into near mythological archetypes. Leach makes a point to similarly mythologize the surrounding wilderness. Replete with sweeping cinematography that would give the likes of John Ford and Ansel Adams pause, The Lure ranks among the most achingly gorgeous films of 2016, documentary or otherwise. The murky, enchanting score by indie rock band Calexico—they previously scored John Michael McDonagh’s irascible buddy-cop comedy The Guard (2011)—further enhances the film into the realm of meditative reflection. Even as it records various treasure-seekers decoding the poem’s clues like monks pouring over Nostradamus, the film never loses the wistful sense that finding the Fenn Treasure would be only a happy accident. Somewhere the treasure exists. And every day its legend swells into something as immortal and timeless as the Rockies themselves. That in itself is worth more to more people than a mere handful of gold ever could.
THE LURE plays again November 15 at DOC NYC. For tickets and more information go here.