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Superb photography makes new Omnimax film a success

debby, I read this through and made a few changes.



Mugar Omni Theater,

Boston Museum of Science.

Continues through October 22.


THE LATEST IMAX/OMNIMAX production, To The Limit, is a beautifully made, technologically stirring experience. The show is truly unique because of recent breakthroughs in endoscopic photography, a technique which sends specially-designed camera lenses on trips through living tissue. Through the eyes (and down the lungs) of a veteran rock-climber, an ascendant ballerina, and a world-champion skier, To The Limit affords provocative insights into the physical and mental effects of rigorous training and discipline.

The most daring cinematography comprises the first third of the film. Featured are California rock-climber Tony Yaniro and some death-defying shots taken on the cliffs of Yosemite National Park. However, the scene cuts away intermittently to equally amazing footage of the lungs, heart, and brain as they coordinate for Yaniro's advanced physical activity. Yaniro's voice can be heard describing his impressions of his own mental processes as they interact with his considerable physical training. At one point, from a cliff 3,000 feet above sea level, he quips, "I always was afraid of heights!"

The next segment of To The Limit highlights world-champion skier Maria Walliser in her efforts to prepare for a Women's Downhill competition. The alpine cinematography is gorgeous, and the vicarious thrill of gunning down a professional-level downhill course at breakneck speed is unforgettable in Omnimax. There is real old-fashioned drama here as well -- Walliser's attempts to repeat as Women's Downhill world champion are fraught with peril and expectation, and we get to experience the climax and denouement in an unbelievably realistic fashion.

The last part showcases ballerina Nina Ananiashvili of the Bolshoi Ballet Company as she prepares for a major performance. Unfortunately, this piece is less informative than the other two. We hear voiced-over platitudes ("During a performance, I must forget all that I have learned" or "I dance between the notes!") while we watch ballet slowed down to the point of artless grotesquerie. The medical insights are less memorable too, the primary points of interest in this segment being the several breathtaking scenes of Moscow's streets and architecture.

Surprisingly, the film seemed far longer than its 38 minutes, possibly as a result of the incredible depths of sensory experience afforded by Omnimax. While there is still a long way to go before this medium can be used as a purely pedagogical tool, To The Limit is billed as a step in that direction. With interest in education on the rise once more, this can only be considered a good sign. Everyone with even a passing interest in medicine or learning in general should experience the production at least once to determine for themselves how effectively they have been enlightened in this unusual setting.

As for you audiophiles, the sound system's 12 channels, 27,000 watts, 84 loudspeakers, and 37 amplifiers playing Beethoven's Seventh and Handel's Harp Concerto (among other works), is an aural revelation "aural orgasm" -- I THINK THIS LOCUTION IS NEAT -- LEAVE IT IN /JOSH) not to be missed. Choose a high, centrally-located seat and a warm companion and prepare for a supreme sonic and visual experience.