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Surf movie

Last night I went to see Riding Giants at the Fremont, a major film in the SLO film festival. I first heard of this film on the radio. I was in my car, somewhere between here and Las Vegas or between here and San Jose, and I was excited about it. I'm not a surf freak. I don't think I went to even one of those stupid surf films in the fifties, although I saw my share of Gidget elsewhere.

This film tries to tell the story of the "real" surfers. The dedicated, obsessed, fun-loving, addicted young men, who wanted to ride bigger and bigger waves. It features interviews with surf greats Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, and others. In fact, it was after meeting Greg Noll that the director-writer, Stacy Peralta, decided to make this film - so he could capture Noll now as well as then.

I know this last because I heard Peralta say it last night. Peralta, Noll, and Edwards were at the Fremont and came on stage after the film to answer questions from the crowd. And what a crowd! It was sold out! In fact it was oversold. When I asked the film festival people about Saturday night tickets they told me they had never sold the Fremont out - but they did last night, and had to refund money to a bunch of people who couldn't find seats.

I sat in the back row on the left, in one of the chairs that has a gap next to it, for wheelchairs. I needed room for my leg and I didn't want to have to get up every time someone wanted to get past me, so this worked perfectly for me. By the end, there were several men kneeling or sitting on the floor next to me! I suggested to the one directly next to me that he get a folding chair from the lobby and he said he'd think about it, but he didn't do so ultimately. Just sat there.

The Fremont ceiling, with all its unrestrained whirls, made me think of waves.



The theater seats about 800, meaning it is probably one of the largest movie theaters still in existence. Most of the others built in that period have been torn down or converted to other uses. It is so perfect for events like this that I got to wondering what a larger city would do. Our city size and this theater size were perfect for this event. One of the speakers at the end mentioned how great it was and told us to "keep it a secret".



Left to right: Peralta, Noll, Clark, and a guy from the media company.

Oh, but the film. It really is incredible. It quickly and humorously traces the "first 1000 years" of surfing, then focuses on the forties and fifties and works up to the present day, showing who and how the world of surfing changed. Hawaii's North Shore, California's Mavericks (near Half Moon Bay), and out into the islands of Tahiti and into the middle of the ocean, wherever the waves can be found. The film shows how, for these particular surf stars, it wasn't just a lark - although it was that! It was a thrill so great that they were willing to lose their lives doing it. Yet most of them didn't truly believe they could lose their lives until one of their own, Mark Foo, did, among a huge crowd of surfers and watchers at Mavericks. That too changed the course and the intensity of the sport.

Sport is such an odd thing, but I think surfers have in common with other athletes the pursuit of perfection that takes away the rest of their lives. Unathletic though I am, I am capable of understanding that. To be sure, the many many surfers in last night's crowd understand it.

Saturday night Paul and I will go to the premiere of Lucky Number Slevin, also at the Fremont, and we'll see Morgan Freeman and Malcolm McDowell and others. That one is also sure to sell out.

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