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Australian Broadcasting Corporation Reviews The Living Curl

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California goes surfing, surfing super 8

Still from the feature documentary Living Curl. (The Living Curl)

By Mark Bannerman
Posted Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:25pm AEDT
Updated Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:26pm AEDT

No doubt about it nostalgia is big business. But every once in a while you come across something, a piece of music, a film or a book that perfectly and frighteningly recalls a long forgotten past that shocks you.

That’s exactly the feeling you have when you watch director Jamie Budge’s film, The Living Curl. Yes it is a surfing movie. Yes it does have a cast of names that might draw blank stares from anyone under 50 but it is a remarkable document that manages to capture an unspoilt place and the innocence of a sport that would soon explode into the public consciousness.

When this movie was made it was possible, in California, to go surfing in the morning, catch crayfish in the afternoon and cook them over an open fire in the evening before going to sleep on the beach.

How things have changed.

It was 1960 and Jamie Budge was just a kid when he started shooting 8mm film of his favourite surfers. He travelled the Californian coast documenting the people, the places and the waves he saw.

Keen to share what he’d seen he’d rent small halls and advertise his films charging 25 cents a person. As he tells it, after surfers paid their admission and saw the 8mm projector, many would often head to the door and demand their money back. Budge would plead with them to stay. Then after reluctantly returning to their seats and watching The Living Curl, they would compliment Budge on his masterpiece of Californian surfing.

They had every reason to be delighted. Not only did they get to see all the great surfers of the day, including Miki Dora, Johnny Fain and Lance Carson doing moves they could only dream of, but they were given something else too … that’s even clearer today. Looking through the eyes of a 16-year-old we see California as it was. Brown hills, blue water, massive kelp beds and the glimmer of the sun.

What the film also does is lay bare what we might call he “Faustian bargain” struck by those pioneer surfers or any adventurer who dares to make a living marketing their cherished lifestyle. In other words you want to surf, you sell the sport and hey presto the crowds begin to destroy the very essence of what you’ve found.

If you’ve read anything at all about Miki Dora, sometimes called the king of Malibu Beach, then you’d know that Dora and and many of his contemporaries never quite made the adjustment from the days when when they had the ocean to themselves and the time after the movie Gidget and the Beach Boys when every young boy and girl wanted to be on the sand either sunning, swimming or riding a surfboard.

There is a marvelous scene in the movie that takes us to a Hollywood movie shoot where they are making a version of Beach Blanket Bingo. Here we see all the movie muscle men and the phoniness that goes with those situations but out in the water guess who’s taking money to be the surfing stuntmen? Miki Dora of course and his other pals who hate the general public’s new-found interest in their pastime.

When the movie isn’t taking us to film shoots and assorted parties we travel in a gas guzzling car up and down the California coast highway. We are proudly told you can fill up for 25 cents a gallon! There’s another shock coming though and this is the true wonder of the movie. What you are hit by is, what’s not there. As we travel from one empty location after another we see the landscape as it was, unadorned by houses, development of almost any sort. In short the California Dream that so many wrote about and many more somehow try to hang onto.

In one remarkable scene two young surfers leave their car, climb a massive sandhill and then use what look like the decks of skateboards to “snowboard” down the hill. Had they had their wits about hem they would have run straight to the patent office and won the rights to the modern concept of a snowboard but these were more innocent times. With sand beginning to chaffe they head for the Pacific Ocean across the road to rinse off before continuing their trip.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the movie comes when we go to the first surf contest ever held at Malibu Beach. There the contradictions of surfing are laid bare. Here a group of people, often better known for their colourful characters than their surfing, who’ve very deliberately put themselves outside the “normal” social confines are dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

Why has this movie suddenly been had its second coming now? Well the digital age has made this possible and the net assists in creating awareness (the major movie companies would certainly never gamble their money on this) but there is something else going on too, you suspect. Surfing writer Nick Carroll, who’s spent a good deal of time in California editing and writing about surfing reflected recently that Americans have an obsession with the California of a by-gone era. The golden state is the dream that many hold onto rather than the one that confronts them each day on the free-ways, the strip malls and the crowded stretches of ocean that is their homeland.

Right now there’s definitely a hunger for the old days. Perhaps surfing like popular music is stagnating. Other films have been re-mastered and re-released recently including big wave rider Greg Noll’s “Search for Surf”, but none carry quite this brand of innocence. This is California before the deluge, a place where a small band of, for want of a better phrase, social misfits created a sport, a lifestyle, perhaps even an art-form that ultimately spread out around the globe. It’s the danger of parent-hood I suppose. Do the job well and your children will ultimately out-grow you.

Written by terrycaccia

May 7th, 2010 at 5:01 am

Posted in Reviews

TLC Review by Bob Feigel Surf Guide Magazine

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The Living Curl – a film by Jamie Budge
by Bob Feigel – Contributing Editor for Surf Guide Magazine
The Living Curl isn’t just a “blast from the past,” it’s a classic surfing film that will literally BLAST you there!

It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s real and it manages to document and convey the wonderful spirit of the time when Southern California was the center of the surfing world.
To me there are several things that make this film both likeable and unique.

To begin with – unlike many surf filmmakers – Jamie Budge is a highly skilled and accomplished surfer in his own right, and it’s that gifted athlete’s “eye” which gives him an edge when choosing the surfers, the waves and the shots in the film.

It’s like he’s not just shooting a film about someone else surfing, he’s making a film about the people, places and waves he knows.

Then there are the film’s many sequences of Miki Dora’s artistry. They are simply superb and demonstrate why Da Cat will always be considered Malibu’s supreme Wavemaster.

The film’s other featured surfers also read like a who’s who of 60’s surfing elite: Johnny Fain, Dewey Weber, Lance Carson, Harold Iggy, Mike Doyle, Rusty Miller, John Peck, Rick Irons, Corky Carroll, Mickey Muñoz, Mark Martinson , Denny Lennehan, Robert August, Mike Hynsen, Ron Sizemore and David Nuuhiwa .. plus dynamic young, up-and-coming talents like Jo Jo Perrin and Jackie Baxter.

There is also rare surfing footage of Malibu locals like Richard Roche, Dave Rochlen, Robbie Dick, Bob “Porkchops” Barron, John Gale, Brian Haimes, George Szgetti, Dave Stewart, Paul Resnick and H2o magazine publisher, Martin Surgarman.

Of course, these were the days before surfing wetsuits and leashes … when surfing expeditions up and down the Californian coast were a real adventure and something to look forward to. After all, old cars were cheap, gas was around 25 cents a gallon and the Pacific Coast Highway still connected coastal communities rather than separating them.

Captured forever by Jamie’s camera the film takes us on a journey up and down Highway 101 in the early-to-mid ’60’s and gives us nostalgic glimpses of the coast the way it was before the money changers took over the temple.

Today’s viewers will also see Southern Californian surfing spots as they once were and even some that no longer exist, like Stanley’s, the Rincon Oil Piers and Dana Point.

My only criticism of the film is a small one.

While the accompanying background music track comes through both stereo channels, the narration is only on the left channel. And it’s only a criticism because Jamie Budge’s dry, infectuous humor makes the narration worth paying attention to.

All in all The Living Curl is a “must see” for all those interested in surfing’s rich history or anyone wanting to enjoy a surfing film that combines all the elements required to make it a classic.

Written by Jamie Budge

July 9th, 2009 at 11:38 am

Posted in Reviews

The Living Curl Review from the IMDb website

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This review of The Living Curl appeared on the IMDb Movie database website.

The Living Curl (1965)
1 out of 1 people found the following comment useful :-
A Local Classic Brought Back To Life, 15 December 2008/9/10

Surf Movies, Hmmmm………

In an era of unrestricted travel and sophisticated media manipulation it’s truly wonderful to find a film that drags the viewer’s jaded palette to a zone of such raw stoke, especially when it only takes a 60 mile trip up the coast.

Believe it or not surfing used to be fun. “The Living Curl” provides the evidence – undeniable.While it’s true that by 1965 Malibu (at the time the most famous spot anywhere) was already crowded beyond capacity, this film shows what most surfers on a limited budget could do – head up the coast.

Great shots at, what were at the time, mysterious locations. Great shots of surfers who were the icons of the day demonstrating their trademark styles as well as some front edge progressive moves. Great footage of early contests which were won more for takeoff rights in the line-up than anything else.

Technically the film looks as clean as on the day of its first screening. Long lost and pretty much forgotten it has been dug out of the vaults and restored under the auspices of Scott Starr, well known and tireless surf archivist.

The new soundtrack and narration are wonderful. Jamie Budge has lost none of the stoke that inspired him to produce the film in the first place. His loss of memory with regard to surf contestants adds a comfortable charm for those of us who were there.

There was a time when all surfing was was fun, see it happen.

Written by Jamie Budge

December 17th, 2008 at 8:14 pm

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Balsa Bill Reviews the Living Curl

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The Living Curl
Classic Sixties Surf Film by Jamie Budge
Review by Balsa Bill [email_link]

The first time I ever met Jamie Budge was in 1965. I was working in Keller’s Surf Shop in Lavallette, N. J. It was just a couple of days before the Atlantic States Surfing Contest in Seaside Heights. Jamie wanted to enter the contest but I was given strict orders. The contest was full. The closing date had passed. No more entries.
Jamie pleaded. He had just come in from California. Couldn’t I make an exception? Well, I figured, what’s one more entry? I took his fee, and snuck his entry form into the stack back in the office. No one would know.
A couple of days later, Jamie won the contest. First place. Besides being an excellent surfer, we found out the following week, that he was a very talented filmmaker when he showed “The Living Curl” at the Seaside Heights American Legion Hall.
The Seaside Heights American Legion Hall was the most popular local venue for surf movies in the sixties. I was to find out why when I showed my film there a couple of years later. The hall rental fee was $25.
We all agreed that night, my friends and I, that “The Living Curl” may have been the best surf film that we’d seen up ’til then.
Of course we’d seen Bruce Brown’s soundtracked versions of Surfing Hollow Days, Barefoot Adventure and Waterlogged. We’d even seen “The Endless Summer” narrated in person by the man himself. It’s a classic of course with some great travel scenes. But for hard core surfing, we were more into Grant Rholoff , Dale Davis, Walt Phillips or Jim Freeman’s films.
Jamie, though had made a film that concentrated on the small glassy waves of California with the hottest of the hotdoggers. No Hawaii. No big waves. No survival stances. No travelogues. Just mostly small California point waves with the best performance surfing we’d seen up until then.
The film is heavy on Malibu, Jamie’s home break. What a great setting for a surf film in the early sixties. The perfect California point wave and the guys who invented hot dogging. All of the Malibu regulars are featured: Mickey (Miki) Chapin Dora (Mr Malibu, the Cat, Da Cat), Lance Carson, Johnny Fain, Dewey Weber, Bob “Porkchop” Baron, Dave Rochlen…in wave after wave of nose rides, cut backs, fives, tens and island pull outs.
The pan shot down the beach, at the opposite angle of what you normally see featuring the classic early sixties boards with laminated wood fin after laminated wood fin will make the collectors go absolutely crazy.
We get to meet young up and coming contest winners Corky Carroll, David Nuuiwa and Mark Martinson while they were still juniors and surfing the contest circuit: The Oceanside Invitational, The Laguna Masters (at Redondo Breakwater, named after the swimwear company not the beach town). We also get to see the legends of the day including Mike Hynson and Robert August battling it out at the Malibu Invitational.
A surfari up the coast features Secos (Arroyo Sequit) before it was Leo Carrillo State Park, California Street, Rincon, Santa Cruz, and for a break from all the perfect point breaks the Hollywood by the Sea sequence is a nice change of pace: bigger lefts in fast closing beach breaks.
The Stanley’s Diner sequence features filmaker Jamie himself surfing the glassiest waves ever. The spot no longer exists of course. Now it’s a freeway ramp. Too bad we didn’t have The Surfrider Foundation back in the Sixties.
For those of us that grew up surfing in the sixties, “The Living Curl” is like having Surfer Magazine circa 1961-1964 come alive.
I’ve been hoping for this to come out on DVD for quite a while now. Since getting my personal autographed copy a couple of days ago I’ve probably viewed the film 10 times since I’ve had it running constantly in my shop. I’m not tired of it yet. When you wait 43 years to see one of your favorite surf films the question is, will you be disappointed when it finally come out? I can say “The Living Curl” lived up to my memory and my expectations.
Visit Balsa Bill

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December 17th, 2007 at 9:36 pm

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