Billed as “the first Japanese surfing road movie in Australia”, it’s obvious this film is trying very hard to be cool. Maybe I just didn’t get it, or I’ve become old and boring before my time, but this film didn’t grab me at all, frankly I found it boring.
How can it fail, it’s a hybrid genre movie, a good first step on the way to cult classic status (just think of the recent yakuza, zombie, samurai movie Versus). The problem is that the whole thing seems a little obvious; it almost seems like a novelty to have a Japanese cast in this film, it’s nice seeing an Australian film from a different perspective but no one has to do anything other then stand around and look cool.
Doing nothing is also exactly what the plot does the entire movie. Driving, surfing, a little dialogue (punctuated by Shark’s annoying philosophical narration that’s like really deep and stuff, man) then repeat times 10 and that’s the film. Basically it’s one big montage, this was probably intended to be an innovative storytelling method but it comes off as lazy. Narrative is defiantly not the main focus of this film. Like all good road movies there is a ‘mythic’ destination to be reached, in this case it’s the gold coast, but it never feels like a real goal for the characters. Unfortunately unlike all good road movies there is no revelation that the journey is more important then the final location. You’re just meant to sit back and enjoy the images.
The tricky editing effects show that this film is meant to be viewed as style over substance, but I didn’t find it particularly stylish. The editing tricks are really obvious (split screen, cross fade, jump cut, photo montage) and annoyingly dominate the film. The small moments where the film takes a breather and the characters actually get to talk to each other are actually the most interesting parts of the film. If this was just a straightforward road movie about a group of Japanese surfers then I think I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately this film is all about the visual experience, the music video stye construction.
On that note we come to the second most important part of the film, the music, after all the lack of dialogue really give this the feeling of a really long video clip. The problem with that is video clips work best in a short time frame (even the best video clips would really be pushing it if stretched out to feature length). The soundtrack is probably what you would call chill out, but like the rest of the film I wasn’t won over by it. A few beats, some strummy guitar and that’s about it, but I suppose it was enough to complement the frequent eye candy.
As far as eye candy goes the cast is appealing but none of them move an inch from their stereotypical outlines (the cool guy, the crazy guy, the cute girl and the mystical stoner — watch the film and see if you can work out which is which). These four guys are the whole film, unlike most road movies they don’t get to meet an interesting assortment of oddball characters along the way. Endless shots of Yuto and the gang indulging in Australian culture should be endearing, but they end up being pretty obvious and annoying (football, vegemite, cold chisel, stuffed local wildlife etc.)
The director Rachel Lucas has admitted that the film is meant to be superficial, light on narrative, an audio-visual experience a big music clip, to be glanced at in a cafe a film to relax to. You might then say that I’m missing the point, but I feel my criticism still holds. It’s hard on the viewer to sit down and watch a film that doesn’t want your full attention, it may be more enjoyable if caught out of the corner of the eye (it has probably been a successful backdrop to a few parties by now) but it’s not very practical. Essentially it’s a friendly piece of video art and I don’t think many people sit down to watch a DVD of their favourite pieces all that often.
Basically it’s hard to watch this as a ‘film’, it fails because it want’s too much (part film/part moving artwork) and in the end it doesn’t add up to a satisfactory whole. I didn’t actually hate this movie I was frustrated by it. There will probably be many of you that will ‘get’ it and probably love it but it was not for me. For a proper Japanese surfing movie try A Scene At The Sea instead.