All or Nothing

A documentary's adventurous protagonist takes a bite out of life

Like Schneebaum, Keep the River starts out in the first camp and converts to the second, deconstructing itself in the process. You might position this as a moral victory if it wasn't so clearly the humility of ignorance--the necessary result of facing something that confounds all attempts at definition. My favorite moment in the film comes quietly, when the boat has dropped anchor and the rains are moving in. Schneebaum is characteristically holding forth when suddenly thunder booms and, silenced, he first shudders at, then thrills to, then savors the experience. "I really love that sound," he says finally, turning back to us. It's a moment that reveals everything and nothing. How much of love is fear? What drives desire? What does appetite amount to? The answer is that it's a mystery. And if you can't explain one man's reaction to thunder, then how can you explain anything else he does?

The truth is hard to swallow: Tobias Schneebaum in 'Keep the River on Your Right'
IFC Films
The truth is hard to swallow: Tobias Schneebaum in 'Keep the River on Your Right'

Well, apparently, you can't. The best you can do, as the film does, is keep him company, pay attention, and understand that some things are simply indigestible.

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