By Daniel Barnes
*Opens today at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas in San Francisco and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
First-timer Marah Strauch directs this documentary about BASE-jumping pioneer Carl Boenish, a man described as having an “aura of life,” even as he relentlessly chased death off of every cliff ledge, tall building, and TV tower he could find. Boenish was not only a spiritual thrill seeker with a childlike enthusiasm, he was also a filmmaker, and he used helmet-mounted cameras to capture some truly spectacular footage of bodies hurtling gracefully towards the earth. Strauch mixes some of that amazing footage in with the usual talking-head interviews, ill-conceived re-enactments (Strauch plays Boenish’s milquetoast-y wife Jean), and old TV footage (seeking to legitimize BASE-jumping in the 1980s, Carl and Jean made the media rounds as weirdo segment fillers for the likes of Donahue and Sajak). Sunshine Superman generally favors spectacle over substance, stubbornly refusing to psychoanalyze Carl, who pursued the euphoric high of the jump to his untimely death on a Norwegian mountain face.