For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Travel Films here’s a review of Endless Summer (1966) by David of BluePrint: Review
Thanks again to Rebecca of Almost Ginger for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Nick Rehak of French Toast Sunday and we will be reviewing our favorite Biographical Films.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of May by sending them to email@example.com
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Nick!
Let’s see what David thought of this movie:
Director: Bruce Brown
Screenplay: Bruce Brown
Starring: Robert August, Michael Hynson, Lord James Blears, Bruce Brown (narrator)
Running Time: 91 min
BBFC Certificate: E
Bruce Brown had been making surfing documentaries since the late 50s, but it wasn’t until The Endless Summer in 1966 that his films, or any surfing films for that matter, hit the mainstream (the film was actually finished in 1964, but it didn’t get a worldwide release until 2 years later). After showing the skills of some Californian and Hawaiian surfers in the first 10 minutes or so, The Endless Summer shifts focus to follow Mike Hynson and Robert August as they embark on a year long tour of beaches around the world, in a bid to experience the titular ‘endless summer’ (i.e. being on a beach during summer time all year round by travelling across several continents). Along the way they bring surfing to people who have never experienced it before and try to find the ‘perfect wave’.
The film managed to live up to my expectations thankfully, although I was a little put off at first by the film’s presentation. By that, I don’t mean the surfing footage, which is as great as I’d hoped and I’ll talk about later, but I mean in how the film is constructed. I expected interviews with surfers and more of a modern style of documentary, but it actually follows a more classic format where footage is supported by only voice-over narration and music. This simple approach took a short while to get used to, but luckily Brown (who provides the narration himself) is a great speaker. He’s very good at explaining the skill involved in what we’re watching on screen as well as filling us in on the surfers’ backgrounds, particular styles and the current locations. He also injects a great deal of humour into the film, which I wasn’t expecting. This, when added to some pre-planned goofing around by the surfers or sped-up footage, can be a bit silly at times, but it keeps the tone light and prevents the film from getting dry.
Also keeping the film from getting dull and repetitive is the central premise of following Mike and Robert on their world tour. This allows for a travelogue aspect to the film, which I enjoyed a great deal. You get to see several different countries and experience their individual cultures. The African and South African trips were particularly illuminating and enjoyable, although, in the narration, some stereotypes were played on a little too strongly by today’s standards.
The biggest draw is the footage though. The surfing is captured brilliantly, particularly given the equipment available at the time. Lightweight cameras were still relatively new back then, but Brown makes great use of them. He shoots from a distance for the most part, using a telephoto lens, but now and then you get some shots taken on the water, including some thrilling on-board footage, decades before GoPros became the norm. Brown understands surfing and knows what looks good and it’s a genuine pleasure to watch the talented sports men and women on display. He makes great use of the sun-kissed locations too and I longed to be on the trip with the guys.
One aspect I found a little disappointing though was the music. I enjoy a bit of surf rock and I’m a massive Beach Boys fan, but the soundtrack here leaned more towards the cheesier early pop-60s style that I’m not too fond of. There are a few good tracks here and there and the main theme wormed its way into my head, but I found a lot of the music rather dated.
Overall it’s a film that may be dated a little in terms of how it’s presented then, but once you accept this you’re in for a treat. The visuals are hypnotically beautiful, showing off the skills of some great surfers as well as the sights of some gorgeous locations. It has more focus and momentum than I expected, due to the ‘endless summer’ concept, and more humour due to Brown’s charming personality, so is a lot of fun to watch too. It’s simple in terms of form, but works by charting an idyllic journey around the world and documents is so beautifully that you feel like you’re there or want to be at least. It made me desperate to hit the road and some waves.