(Editor’s Note: One of the things I’ve avoided during my (inconsistent) stint as a blogger is “getting personal.” This entry is “getting personal,” for my own benefit. It’s horrendously self indulgent, but you might get something out of it too. I’ll be at the other end with a box of tissues and a hug for you. Or not).
Let’s Get to the Lofty and Pretentious “Meat” Up Front
Yes, this is an entry about the “wild and crazy” documentary from the ‘60s called The Endless Summer. For some reason, I have a feeling this is a movie that more people have heard about than seen. There’s even a reference to it in Point Break...Gary Busey performs an unbelievable act of physical prowess by jumping on a desk and proclaiming: “The bank robbers are using the money to fund their Endless Summer!”
(This might be one of those “you had to be there” things. I suppose it’s also a huge spoiler if you never saw Point Break. To which I say: “Take it easy, Warchild...”)
To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit surprised that I’ve seen The Endless Summer. There was no real reason for me to see it other than total and complete happenstance. The movie just happened to be there at the right time...when I needed to see it.
That leads to some questions:
- When does the viewing of a “stupid” movie cross over and become something wholly other? What do I mean by this? When does a certain film fill a hole that you didn’t even realize you have?
- Why does this happen? There is no way to address that with any kind of complete answer, but I’ll at least go down swinging.
- In short, how does something transcend its origins and become more than a “stupid” flick about beach bums?
- Here’s perhaps the largest question I would like to float: Why do we even bother to watch movies in the first place?
Please note the air quotes around the word “stupid.” The Endless Summer, on a surface level, is perhaps one of the “stupidest” movies you’ll see. There’s no great depth to it, it’s terribly dated, and it chronicles a culture that I personally never experienced. I’ve never seen it make a list of “great” movies (documentaries or otherwise). There is no reason for it to survive in the annals of film history (despite the aforementioned reference in Point Break).
Why the hell do I even remember watching The Endless Summer? That requires a bit of a flash back sequence (or would it be a montage?)
On a Side Note: You Might Be Wondering What The Endless Summer is...
Sometimes my blog has educational value, too.
The Endless Summer is, according to Wikipedia, a “seminal surf movie.” I would hesitate to call it a “documentary,” as it is much more of a travelogue. The “Endless Summer” of the title refers to every surfer’s dream. Where would you go if you could fund an endless trip around the world, looking for the perfect wave?
Bruce Brown, the filmmaker, gave that opportunity to two surfers who became his documentary subjects. The movie is essentially that: watching these two dudes catch waves, while surf rock and Brown’s dry humored commentary play on the soundtrack.
That must sound horrendously boring.
The Big Answers to the Big Questions
I was in my early ‘20s once. This is an unpleasant fact which I would rather ignore (or forget). That said, let me ruminate on the events of what was supposed to have been “the best years of my life.”
A literal wave of shit hit the fan about the same time my first semester of college rolled around:
- My grandmother died: Yeah, I know, these things happen. People get old, sick, and eventually...dead. Looking back on it, though, this loss affected me deeply. To add insult to injury, I ended up missing a chunk of my first semester to go back for the “let’s put the fun in funeral” nonsense.
- I had a “heart issue.” No, I was not dumped by an insanely hot older college student. My heart quite literally malfunctioned due to what was called (by my cardiologist...yes, I had to have a cardiologist at 18) an “arrhythmia.” Despite my light touch in recalling this, it was quite scary. I would suddenly have a heart beat that reached up to 300 beats per minute...the attacks would happen out of nowhere and last upwards of twenty minutes.
- The state college that I went to, in retrospect, was just too big. I just wasn’t a “mixer,” so I floundered socially. This is much more common than I thought it was at the time. I suppose if I was more able to joke about my anxieties and move past them, that might have helped. (By the way, if anyone out there is experiencing something similar to this, I’m not sure I have any advice. Wait...yes I do. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life...”)
- The uncertainty left over from youth became full blown existential angst. I’ve always had a “meaning of life” conundrum. A sort of constant panic about: “What’s it all about?” What are the Big Answers to the the Big Questions? Cue Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” I suddenly needed to “ponder” these issues...and that probably resembled “sitting and around and moping.” I much prefer to call it “pondering.” I believe the ancient Greeks created an entire society based on these principles. Where did I get with all this “pondering?” Nowhere, honestly.
For those of you still reading (and my apologies if you are), you might wonder what this all has to do with The Endless Summer?
The Endless Summer: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
I would like my astute readers to recall the introduction to this little pity party. Before I got lost in my memories, I was asking questions about when a movie transcends itself. Everyone has had this kind of experience, you’re down and out and something comes along at the right time to revive you. It’s the song on the radio, a call from a friend, a perfect cup of yogurt...that last one is an exaggeration.
Anyway, for me, on one particular occasion, it was The Endless Summer.
I was sitting in my room, “pondering,” which in this case meant “channel surfing.” Oh, I’m sure there was still some soul searching thrown in too. That can happen while you’re channel flipping, can’t it? There was a movie coming on next...The Endless Summer.
Describing The Endless Summer and witnessing it are two entirely different phenomenons.
As my memory is slightly faulty, I can’t even remember if I started watching it at the very beginning. It’s entirely possible that I tuned in late...and there was the “stupid” surface. The acoustic “surf guitar,” the beautiful sunsets, the goofily happy surf dudes chasing after that perfect wave.
I suppose my reaction could have been a rather (characteristically cynical) “how quaint.” Instead, I had the slightly more loaded reaction of: “how innocent.” There was no room for angst here, just the joyful pursuit of blissful and complete happiness. That has nothing to do with “surfing,” it has to do with what we all secretly want: a little peace.
As I watched the movie, my entire chemical composition felt altered for a moment. There are certainly many other pieces of celluloid that I deem more “important.” There are several viewing experiences that have affected me in a different way. The ones I pretentiously tout as: “Life Changing.”
That all said, has another movie experience made me this instantaneously happy? I would probably have to go all the way back to my first experience of theater going: ET at three of four. The same sense of my identity disappearing, and the only thing of importance being the events on screen. I wasn’t just some existentially confused college kid for an hour and a half. I was riding the waves...I was on my own Endless Summer.
Let’s Be Honest...
I never watched The Endless Summer again. I don’t know, a little over a decade later, that I ever will. There is very little I remember about it. Where did the surfers go? Did they ever find that perfect wave? I’m not even sure that matters.
The questions I started this entry off by asking. There is no way to answer them, other than to trust the value of my own experience.
I badly needed The Endless Summer at the exact moment I found it. I’m grateful about the fact that I did.
I would like to now open up my comments section: Do you have similar experiences? What were the movies for you?