A surf movie that puts two people in another universe – John Florence and Blake Vincent Kueny.
Expectations run high at a film premiere for a John Florence movie.
“I’ve watched the trailer about twenty times,” enthused one of the groms in the queue outside the Collaroy cinema where, View from a Blue Moon was showing. It was 6.30; the film wasn’t due to roll until eight and the grom was hustling his way through a line that already snaked around the corner from the picture theatre.
By the end of the night none of the masses who showed up for the global premiere ( it screened round the world on the same day) would walk away disappointed and two things would be very clear. One: If you remove the arithmetic of competition John John Florence is pound for pound arguably the best surfer in the world right now. Two: This is a film as much about the mastery of its director Blake Vincent Kueny as it is about the preeminence of its star surfer. Step aside Kai Neville. Move over Taylor Steele, Blake has fully arrived. Kueny has made a film that combines striking cinematography with otherworldy high performance surfing and a few cornball laughs for good measure. There’s even a pseudo-intellectual twist. What other surf film has been brave enough to feature a lengthy excerpt from a JFK speech. Given the movie’s title, synching in Kennedy’s famous “We Choose To Go To the Moon” speech was a masterstroke.
Okay, but you still want to know did John John do the biggest air ever and score the gnarliest barrel in history? The answer to the first question is that ‘just plain John’ as the movie makes appoint of calling him nails every kind of aerial variation you can think of. Groms will spend days debating which of Florence’s fly-bys in the film are the most mind-blowing. My guess is that everyone will have a different favourite and rewind buttons will be worn down faster than a soft coat of wax on a summer’s day.
As for scoring the gnarliest barrel ever, John proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the Houdini of the surfing world when it comes to nonchalantly finding a way out of impossible situations, but the prize for best pit in the film might just go to his brother Nathan.
Footage of Nathan’s abseil drop to no hands glide on a Chopes cliff face leaked on the net a while back and some pro surfers have talked about it as being perhaps the most critical paddle in wave ever captured at Chopes. On a big screen, with a packed audience the wave definitely had everyone tossing popcorn and howling at the blue moon.
When you have a cast like John John, Jordy, Matt Meola, Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, Koa Rothman, Jack Robinson and Jamie O etc etc there is a danger that the viewer will become desensitized to the ball-tearing action because there is so much good material. The significance of a single, brilliant move becomes a blur if you don’t allow people to breathe a little before and after watching it. This is where Kueney’s use of contrasting imagery is critical. The production effectively splices genres between spectacular, travel documentary and premium quality surf porno. Through South Africa, Brazil, Western Australia and back to Hawaii you are taken on a visual odyssey. The eye watering landscape footage and endearing images of human subjects give you a real sense of place wherever you are. Hell, they even help you believe in the world again. Much of this achieved with the aid of the God’s eye view that’s delivered by surf filmers’ latest and greatest toy – the drone. However, although the flying saucers supplied much of the footage from the air, it’s also apparent that, in a production that appeared to have Hollywood scale budgets, some serious coin was dropped on choppers.
Around the world it goes but arrives back in Hawaii for the final section. After a sound track filled with ethereal, conceptual tracks that help create the necessary ‘Blue Moon’ vibe it’s nice to finally here a much rawer, thrashier, track kick in. ‘Fast and loose’ ‘Fast and loose’ scream the intentionally descriptive lyrics as John eviscerates Pipe barrels and hovers above lips in the North Shore trades. “Wherever I am in the world, I still dream of Pipeline”, John tells us via one of the printed, on screen statements that appear before every section. Pipe, that chunk of cooled lava that John could call his backyard or front yard or office, or bank. It’s often rogue and not always as perfect as you think, which helps make it the ideal wave for a kid who grew up facing random challenges with a Mum who did all she could to make ends meet. Now that same blonde-locked ten-year-old surfling who enchanted the surfing world all those years ago, is enjoying the View From a Blue Moon and right now it looks pretty damn good.