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The Endless Summer

Posted by martinteller on March 3, 2013

Bruce Brown, in one of his many surfing documentaries, follows Mike Hynson and Robert August in their pursuit of the “endless summer”… chasing ideal surfing conditions around the globe.  Their travels will take them to California, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and finally Hawaii as they try to maintain a perpetual summer with perfect waves.

I’ve never been on a surfboard.  Heck, I’ve only been to the ocean a few times.  Just about everything I know about surfing is from the epic two-part Hawaii episode of “The Brady Bunch” and Kathryn Bigelow’s surf/heist thriller Point Break.  Those are two pretty cheesy sources, but this may be even cheesier.  There is no sync sound at all, just music (surprisingly little of it being actual “surf music”) and Brown’s hokey narration.  Brown’s got an easy-going patter, his California casual rhythms perhaps an ideal match for the subject matter… but most of his cornball gags are real groaners.  Sometimes he speaks for the participants, making it feel like “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.  But it’s all so good-natured and unassuming that it never becomes especially troublesome… except for a few comments about the African natives that are a bit uncomfortable.

The guys seem like friendly, fun-loving fellas, but they don’t have much interest in the local culture.  As a travelogue, it’s superficial at best, with the single-minded attention to surfing being either as asset or a drawback, depending on your point of view.  Speaking for myself, I was lulled by the goofy pleasantness of the film but found it rather repetitive after a while.  There’s only so much of watching dudes standing and/or falling off of surfboards I can do before I start wishing for a shark or two to mix things up a little.  Still, I must admit I caught a bit of exhilaration as the young men found some “perfect waves” off Cape St. Francis in South Africa (to my surprise, the perfect wave is not a big, dramatic one, but a relatively mild three-footer with a clean curl).  It’s a lovely moment with a simple beauty.

It’s a hard movie to dislike, even for a jaded cynic like me.  It’s all so jolly and celebratory… the film has an admirable purity and earnestness to it.  It’s just not really my thing, and the repetitiveness (at least to an outsider like me) made its delights a bit too sparse.  Rating: Fair (69)

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