Sit back, relax, and prepare for John Florence's View From a Blue Moon, one of the most beautiful movies you'll see this year, and possibly the most exquisite surf movie ever made. By now, you've already seen the explosive airs and you know the surfing will be otherworldly. You've seen the sweeping shots of South Africa, and you know the globetrotting will seduce surfers with even mild wanderlust.
And it is, and it does.
But the big secret that Florence and director Blake Vincent Kueny held close is the masterful edit, the next-level sound design and perfect pairing of the surfing with the soundtrack. The two friends partnered with Brain Farm, a firm that pioneered state-of-the-art snowboard films with top-of-line cameras, helicopters and other big-ticket items that took the genre to new heights (literally). In View From a Blue Moon they appear to have pulled out every trick in the book. In contrast to Hollywood films that tout high-tech theatrics (read: Michael Bay), Kueny has a deft, artistic touch.
The effect, whether you like surfing or not, is engrossing. In an elevated version of the traditional surf-travel flick, the heart of View is its travel segments. Together, the pieces are a pulsing set of music videos that showcase some of the world's best surfing at incredible breaks -- not to mention world-class surfers who join the adventure.
Read the WSL's recent interview with Florence.
One of the best segments features Florence with his Brazilian counterpart, Filipe Toledo. At 20, Toledo is just a few years younger than Florence and shares his ability to push the limits of what's possible in surfing. Like Florence, he's known for his skills in the air -- a spin here, a flip there, no big deal -- and as a pair in the movie they're an acrobatic show, free from competition and ready to experiment.
It's in this segment in Brazil that the two young stars peel back their professional auras and become kids. Playful, innocent, the camera is there but for a moment it's easy to forget that they're two of the most famous people in the sport. Unfortunately it was on the Brazil trip that Florence suffered an injury that derailed his summer, but you'd never know it by the pure glee that radiates from the screen.
View From a Blue Moon is remarkably self-assured, with slick pacing that few could achieve, much less at Kueny's tender age. There is one misstep, though, when it reaches for a narrative backbone whose strength is debatable. View opens and closes with lighthearted, narrated segments that try to give it a neat raison d'être: John Florence grew up in a special place, he is a special guy, and therefore his story is special.
All those things are true, and the sequences inject some fun into things. But the tone is distinct from the rest of the film, creating bookends that don't completely fit. The promise they set up has a payoff that's in the eye of the beholder.
View asks, what does it mean to grow up wild and free and surrounded by elders who have conquered nature (to the tune of lovely beachfront houses on the North Shore)? Along the movie's dusty roads, between its incredible pointbreaks, and in its open skies the answer unfurls, at least a little bit: At age 23, Florence has the world at his fingertips (or surf fins, as it were). No height is too high, no break is too far, no wave is too big. He's free not only because of the raw power of where he was born, but because he has capitalized on exceptional talent, hard work and a community that recognizes a chosen son when it sees it.
Through the incredible lenses of Kueny, that's how he'll stay.
View From a Blue Moon drops December 1 on iTunes, DVD, Blu-ray and all high-def digital platforms.