Tonight I saw Jack McCoy's highly anticipated surfing film, A Deeper Shade of Blue, his 25th film. Like the last surfing film to hit theaters nationwide, Chasing Mavericks, it had both high notes and low notes and ultimately could have been a lot better (read my review of Chasing Mavericks here).
Let's get some things straight: Jack is a legend in surfing and surf film making. I love surfing. You'd think then that a documentary about surfing by a surf film legend would appeal to surfers. For parts of the film these planets aligned and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback of the film was that it seemed completely devoid of any editing that could have made the movie flow.
At least 45 minutes of A Deeper Shade of Blue should have been left on the cutting room floor. There is a a LOT of superfluous material that would be mildly interesting on a bonus DVD disc. For starters, the first 15-20 minutes is a panel discussion between McCoy and some of the movie's subjects with lots of rambling on about the inspiration behind the film and how it came together. I'm no film expert but I'm not aware of the practice of starting a film by talking about the film. Suddenly, Manoa Drollet, a Tahitian surfer, joins the panel and when he starts talking about something interesting, namely managing/surviving a wipeout at Teahupoo, he gets cut off and the segment abruptly ends.
The premise of the movie, as I understand it, is to highlight a handful of surfers around the world who make surfing special in their own special way. They all use different surf craft but they're all super stoked on surfing and therefore make defining surfing impossible. These portions of the film are terrific. I loved watching and learning about incredible surfers like Jamie O'Brien, Chad and Trace Marshall, Derek Hynd, and Terry Chung. But it's WAY too long before we get to the first subject. This is unfortunate because these are stars of the film. Let's get to know these guys and see what they do!
Unfortunately, these segments are broken up by an evolutionary history of surfing and board design. If you want to make a movie about surf history, fine. Surfboard evolution? Fine. But to combine these, assuming a lowest common denominator with your audience and interspersing it with segments of Manoa Drollet at Teahupoo and Marty Paradisis at Shipstern's Bluff and Terry Chung foil boarding in Kauai makes for a jumbled mess. Where was the editor?! The history segments weren't helped by the fact that the writing and narration were in a style that left me wondering if I was at the Polynesian Cultural Center and not a theater filled with surfers who already know this stuff. As the saying goes, "know your audience."
That said, the historical footage of Barry Kanaiaupuni, Wayne Lynch, and George Greenough among others were all great. Before tonight I had mostly seen only still photos of these legends which obviously doesn't come close to capturing their brilliance. A Deeper Shade of Blue really hits its stride when we get to Jack's underwater cinematography. It's both gorgeous and innovative but we don't get enough of it. It's not until after the closing credits do we see some of his best underwater footage that's further highlighted by a great new song from Paul McCartney called Blue Sway. Why leave this phenomenal stuff for the very, VERY end, when several people have already left the theater? And this wasn't even the end of the movie! McCoy goes back to his informal panel discussion and we hear these guys drone on and on about nothing in particular. I literally couldn't stand it any longer and had to leave, exhausted by the two-plus hours of disorganization. Again, where was the editor?!
Let's end on a high note. As a father to two girls, I loved the women's segment. Like McCoy's underwater footage, the women's segment was beautiful and aspiring. I found it fascinating to hear how much of an impact Kathy Kohner, aka Gidget had on Stephanie Gilmore, one of the world's best female surfers. Her revere for Gidget contrasts sharply with the broader surfing community as most surfers equate Gidget with the death knell for the golden age of surfing by bring the masses to our coasts, shores and waves.
In closing, I'd like to have this movie for my collection however a remote with functioning fast forward button will be absolutely critical as this movie was about twice as long as it should have been.
Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.