Liquid is a highly entertaining, but ultimately disappointing,
documentary about surfing. Writer-Director Dana Brown, son of Bruce (who wrote,
produced, and directed 1966’s The Endless Summer), introduces us to
Robert August, the star of The Endless Summer, now living in Costa
Rica and still an avid surfer. He
introduces us to his dad, Bruce, also still a surfer.
We meet lots of people, all of them in love with surfing.
We even meet a young surfer who is paralyzed from a surfing accident,
but still surfs with the help of his buddies.
We meet surfer girls. We
meet surfers of all ages from all over the world.
All have the same story; a life devoted to surfing is the highest
calling because it’s pure enjoyment.
Nobody in this
movie worries about living a productive life.
Apparently all they do is surf, because none is ever identified as
having a profession. We see
them surfing in Malibu, on Maui’s North Shore in Hawaii (where else?), in
Vietnam, on the Cortes bank (100 miles off the coast of San Diego). They
live their lives according to The Beach Boys’ mantra, “Surfin’ is the
only way, the only way for me, so surf!” OK, maybe all these people are
happy hedonists and maybe that’s fine.
It just bothered me that their lives seem so vacuous, just waiting
for the next big wave. Isn’t
there more to life than that?
I have the same
criticism of this film that I had about last year’s Blue Crush. The
filmmakers missed another golden opportunity to explain the sport of
surfing. People are introduced
as world champions. One guy is
identified as the best surfer in the world who has never won a world’s
championship. What is the sport
all about? How does one win a
world championship? How is
competition judged? It
wouldn’t take long to explain what the sport is.
But this film doesn’t do it. It
also doesn’t explain what makes a good surfer.
Is it standing up throughout the wave?
Is it doing acrobatics while riding the wave?
Is it “hanging 5 or 10?” Is
it surfing in the curl? Why is someone the best surfer in the world? Nobody explains anything.
Despite all that,
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The
cinematography (John-Paul Beeghly) is breathtakingly beautiful, spectacular
shots of the ocean and huge waves, incredible camera angles, buttressed by
mind-boggling sunsets. The people are all, ALL, attractive.
The music (George Acogny and Joe Fischer) is captivating and melds
perfectly with what we’re seeing on the screen.
Simple-minded though it is, it’s wonderful entertainment.
September 3, 2003