Monday, April 20, 2009

The Present: Different Stokes for Different Folks

As promised, here's my quick review of The Present: I really enjoyed it. Done.

Just kidding, but please pass the Kool-Aide. I'm a sucker for surf movies that try to accomplish something a little different than what's expected these days, so when Thomas Campbell's voiceover started at the beginning of the film, I immediately got a buzz (and it wasn't from the tall boy I was nursing). It has to be kind of tough to follow-up a film that defined an era of surfing (quadfish, please), but by integrating some of the elements that existed in Sprout and moving forward with profiles on Dane Reynolds and some of the tube-loving ladies in the beginning, it stood apart from the first two flicks in the trilogy.

I didn't really mind the alaia-fest that went down 3/4 of the way in. It's pretty amazing to see how those boards tap into different parts of the wave and glide so simply and smoothly along. It also illustrates how, under the right surfer's feet, almost any board can look effortless, which I'm sure is not the case. But it also makes you wonder about the influence a well-made surf film can have on the surfing masses. Potato chips, fish, hulls, wooden planks. They all look pretty damn fun on perfect waves with world class athletes maneuvering them. But what board is "perfect" for individual surfers who surf average waves is another subject entirely -- one that would make a great movie in itself.

On that note, I actually related most to Michel Junod's sequences in the film. His humility and inability to ham it up for the camera was refreshing and it actually looked like he was riding the right board for his skills/age and the waves in Africa. That single fin looked really fun, especially on this bomb he caught that went forever. I didn't mind that he wasn't throwing buckets off the back. It kind of reminded me of that scene with Dora surfing J-Bay in Litmus or Gerry Lopez in Chile in Brokedown Melody. Great wave knowledge is a radical skill in itself.

A couple things I think could have been better: The voiceovers were a little awkward and hard to understand throughout the picture and I wonder if that had more to do with the crappy sound at the Clinton Street theater than the mix. We'll see when the DVD comes out. I also would have liked to have seen more art, not just by surfy artists like Geoff McFeteridge and Barry McGee, but by Thomas himself or whoever was art directing. Sprout had this amazing aesthetic that reminded me of old jazz album covers in the title sequence (and introducing each section) that I really thought was brilliant. Something like that would have been nice to tie things together artfully. I liked a lot of the music in the film, especially the Mattson 2 who played before the screening, but there weren't as many goosebump-inducing moments musically in The Present. There was even one scene where the guitar wailing was so dissonant that it clashed with the kind of surfing on the screen and I wanted it to stop. But that may have had something to do with the venue as well.

All and all, this was a great surf movie though. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it too. A lot of people were lukewarm on this film and that's cool. Different stokes for different folks. I went into it knowing what I was in for. Not Fellini. Not Scorcese. Not even Jonze or Kaufman. Just a fun surf movie by Thomas Campbell.

17 comments:

retro shaper said...

Doood...'Gerry'...not...well you know.

Chum said...

Right! Nice catch. This blog needs an editor.

Jamie Watson said...

I really enjoyed your review, Chum! Plus the simple effect of seeing a touring surf movie and band in Portland - how cool is that.

Wobo said...

Pretty crazy the turnout and buzz around this even/film. Makes me realize I'm not just crazy in thinking that the surf population is exploding.

jdog77 said...

Yeah caught it in SF. Great to get amped up to go see a surf flic premier! Kudos to Thomas for barnstorming the film all around. Though the screen size/quality at the little theater was a downer. I may have over-amped myself a bit. Seems that it was a long time coming "it will be out summer 08, no fall 08, wait no spring 09". Reminds me of a surfline forecast...
anyway

Shaka up for:
-wide variety of surf, craft, conditions, and surfers
-The inner monkey surf contest
-The Knost/Junod airport and plane ride spoof
-The feral alaia rider running around

Shaka down for:
-Too much African drumming and dancing get back to that killer right already
-Some soft focus shots (maybe the theater?)

I Agree on the alaia-fest. neat to watch but probably not to pursue if you don't surf 300+ days a year and rip. Movie idea?-"Chum's Quest for the Perfect Board"

georgie says said...

what board is "perfect" for individual surfers who surf average waves ?

23breaths.blogspot.com

made in oregon: www.surfmat.com

surferbrat said...

Great review Chum! It's hard to write a review of a surf flick--I find that I'm often so entranced (if it's done well at all) that I take off my critic hat and only blaring things stand out to me. I definitely agree about the music--especially after that great piece was used in the trailer. I also missed the artistic bits (but so looking forward to this movie to make up for it: www.70percent.org/blog/hanging-five-art-surfing/). I also thought The Present was a little heavy on the tube riding and missed some all out progressive surfing--though RY Craike's sequence was amazing--but too short! Cheers!

jump the shark said...

Yawn.

Anonymous said...

let's use this time to reflect on Earth Day. And, how the guy who founded it hacked his girlfriend to death, and stuffed her in a box and fled to France. Socialist Unite!

Chum said...

Wow. That's pleasant.

Still yawning, JTS?

Jump the Shark: "Yes, what The Present needed was more Sublime, Reef girls, and tow-ats."

jump the snark said...

Movie was ok. The review put me to sleep. Your reply. Yawn. Circles. Done with this and on to the next one. Advise before I leave. Drop surf art and focus on the feel. You may be inspired though your creativity is being stagnated. end.

Chum said...

Cryptic AND clever? Offhanded compliment/insults? Is it getting snarky in here or is it just another anonymous hater who visits my blog multiple times daily?

ras said...

was surprised to notice the ad words on your blog. I reckon you do get lots of hits and...

Chum said...

Ha! Surprised anybody saw that. Yeah, I'm pretty much hoping to make 50 cents on this blog so I can write this hobby off. Taxes weren't kind to me this year. As you may have guessed, so far the experiment's not really working.

leisure time said...

surfing sucks.

pushingtide said...

In my Present there was just coal.

Doc said...

didn't hate it...
didn't love it...
won't buy it...
cause I don't need to see it...
again.