View From A Blue Moon Review

A necessary good.

IMG_2511_John_John_Florence_Trip_South_Africa_©SPECKERFlight. Photo: Specker

It took a while to buy the Captain Morgan.

There was a homeless man getting physical with a self-checkout machine and, human or otherwise, CVS policy dictates that the team must always stick up for their fellow clerks. In due time, the guy was whisked back into the lonely grey night and I was able to swipe my card and walk off with a 750ml plastic bottle of spiced rum. Figured it’d be a nice treat to sip on back at the studio.

The RED studio, that is, where a private screening of View From A Blue Moon was held last week. The place was tucked into the Hollywood ghetto and had all the cinematic fixings to prove it. There were different studios, different sets. Big doors with the big words RESTRICTED ACCESS written in red. Open doors with strange piles of props on the other side. Some sort of a tank? One corner of compound had rows of big comfy chairs all pointed at an even bigger screen. A luxury theater, the perfect home for VFABM. A few more swigs of Captain and the movie was on.

Then boom, the thunder of a Jack Johnson song. Like a compressed ton of hibiscus flowers slamming into a thin piece of steel.

It takes some balls to open with a Jack Johnson song. I don’t think anybody in my direct friend group could successfully sneak a Jack Johnson song into a summer barbecue playlist, let alone start a surf movie with it. But VFABM made it work. That opening section featured archive footage of John John going from boy to man. I guess Motörhead wouldn’t have fit so well.

Then the surfing hit, and I realized that John and Blake could have scored the whole film to the Ying Yang Twins and we’d still rave about it. He’s surfing that good. Full rotation everythings. A rail game worth praising. Barrel-riding that can be hard to comprehend, let alone properly appreciate — I think John might get a lot of that with this film. A broad audience probably won’t understand the complexity of an eerily smoothly stalefish air reverse. But I do think they’ll dig John’s story.

That is, apparently, the story that View From A Blue Moon tells. It’s about the life of a man who grew up on a mossy stone in the middle of the Pacific and now gets paid to find a rhythm with moving walls of salt water — the rarity of all that. It doesn’t dive very deep into John’s personal life. More so, it shines a little light on what he does. That light is shining from a $50,000 camera, by the way.

Or from a helicopter. VFABM features far and the best cinematography surfing’s ever seen. Even the opening credits — underwater RED footage of what looked like Pipeline — put me in a trance. The angles, the quality, everything was better than anything I’ve seen in our sport. Truly outstanding.

It’ll be interesting to see how VFABM is received by critics that aren’t currently shoeless and/or drinking a caramel-colored stinging liquid from a plastic bottle with a fake pirate on it. It’s pretty clear that the folks behind this film want it to be consumed by the mainstream — remember the song they opened with? And I do think the mainstream will bite. I think they’ll buy it, too. They kind of already did.

The film ended and some lady from ESPN began interviewing John and Blake. Their answers seemed uncomfortable and almost guarded. They opened up the floor to questions and people from CBC and NBC were asking about all kinds of weird shit. VFABM is a surf movie, but in that room, that night, it didn’t really feel like it.

As fate had it, they decided to answer my question last.

“I thought the movie was outstanding and believe you should be rewarded for it. So, my question is: Would either of you like a sip of lukewarm Captain Morgan?”

It was met first with laughter, then with affirmation. I toss the bottle to the stage. John and Blake both swig it. Everybody in the room looks confused and suddenly, it feels like surfing again. And surfing is fucking awesome. Especially when John John’s the one doing it.

Plus, they ended with a Motörhead song. —Brendan Buckley