Surf films are unlike anything else in the film universe. They are not just simply 90 minutes of surfing, but at the same time, the interludes cannot constitute a documentary. Some may come with a narrative line through it, but the truth is they make up their own genre and style that cannot be pigeonholed. It all started in 1966 with the Endless Summer, a film about two Californian surfers travelling the world in search of warmer waters. But that was half a century ago. How has the surf film changed?
Despite the lack of budgets, most surf films still manage look beautiful simply because of their locations. But surfing now is different from the hippie love and freedom movements of the 60’s. It is now a professional sport and will be showcasing those credentials at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With sport comes sponsors and that in turn brings money. The world’s top surfers can now be used to sell, sell, sell, so investment in them is vital. While Kelly Slater will be on the tip of everyone’s tongues when modern surfers come to mind, he is not the only superstar anymore.
A View From A Blue Moon is the most expensive surf film ever made and quite possibly the greatest ever made too. It moonlights (pardon the pun) as a film about surf superstar John John Florence but really it is the rightful modern take on the surf film. It epitomizes everything great about the genre, while also providing brand new elements, bringing the surf film to a new generation.
The film took three years to make, which is a logistical nightmare considering surfing is at the mercy of mother nature. Interweaving filming with John John Florence’s professional schedule also meant getting any form of the storyline was nigh on impossible. Instead, the film is an ode to the world of surfing as seen through the eyes of John John Florence. A celebration of its spiritual home in Hawaii while also giving us a taste of waves from much further afield.
John John Florence is perhaps the biggest surfing star aside from Slater on the planet right now. He won his first world title at the end of 2016, fulfilling his long time potential in the process. He is still only 24! In terms of surfing he is a level above the rest it seems. In all areas of the sport he excels, whether on giant waves, or waves as his own personal ramp to perform acrobatic moves in the air on.
While there are amazing individual pieces of surf skill in the film, as well as a cameo from Kelly Slater and narration from surf fan John C Reilly the true winner is the director. Blake Kueny is a friend of Florence’s, but considering this is only his second feature it is mightily impressive. The film is most notable for its use of a helicopter. Sweeping footage of road trips in locations like South Africa and Brazil utilise the chopper expertly. It is also used to capture Florence on the wave from above.
Incredible footage was achieved under the water as well as above it. Seeing a surfboard travelling through a wave from underneath is truly spectacular in VFBM. The use of 4K cameras makes the colours of the water jump out at you. Although I can’t think of many films that involve filming in and around the sea, this is easily the most beautiful I have ever seen.
Another huge part of the film’s success, is the use of music. When you think of a surf film you might think of rock or acoustics, and yes, the film is bookended by Jack Johnson and AC/DC, but the majority of music to which John John surfs is incredible immersive synth pop bangers! Artists like Kishi Bashi and Glass Animals are used to great effect and the songs are placed perfectly in the film to almost weave them into the waters. One of my personal favourites was a remix of a David Bowie’s song Ashes to Ashes that burst into it’s signature keyboard hook as Florence drops down into a mammoth blue wave.
While the majority of film lovers will never delve into the world of surf films, if there has to be one film that you see in the genre, it has to be View From a Blue Moon. You will get to see the best surfer in the world, on the best waves in the world, in the best surf film to date. The images and music will stay with you for weeks and you never know, you might want to get in the water yourself.
YouTube: View From A Blue Moon – Official Trailer (4K Ultra HD) – John Florence