Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: Dragonslayer

Dir. Tristan Patterson
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M15+
Running Time: 75mins

Debut director Tristan Patterson has teamed up with legendary film producer Christine Vachon to create bring forth this evocative documentary, Dragonslayer. A film that ducks, weaves and swoops through its world of low-stakes skateboarding competitions as if the camera is as lost as its protagonist. Watching this beautiful film is like being transported to another generation, one soaked in grunge aesthetics straight out of the early 1990s. Dragonslayer looks absolutely nothing like the vision of youth that we so regularly see on film today and if Gus Van Sant says his favourite film of 2011 is anything else then I will be surprised.

The subject of Dragonslayer is Josh “Skreech” Sandoval, a skater who Patterson follows around America (they met at a party at which Sandoval claims to have been on five squares of acid) as he aims to skate through as many empty swimming pools as possible before the chilling realisation of life (he is a divorced father) finally get to be too much. He and his girlfriend sell items in period garage sales to pay for road trips to Oregon, California and everywhere in between, sleeping in a tent in their friends’ backyards and taking advantage of cheap hot chip offers available at roadside diners. The glamourous life this is not, but what comes through thanks to the gorgeous cinematography, rhythmic editing and hypnotic music is a story of this rather simple man living a rather simple life and somehow being more satisfied than any of us could ever imagine.

My initial scepticism of the project – a 75-minute doco about skateboarders hardly sounds promising – were very much put to rest once I actually laid eyes upon it. Eric Koretz’s award-winning cinematography manoeuvres about the American landscapes, both natural and unnatural, with a flowing beauty that was like magic to an Americana tragic like myself. Capturing moments of bliss and hardship without ever succumbing to clich├ęd representations of either, something that is certainly aided by the fantastic soundtrack. Ace rock tracks that harkens back to grunge, punk and the rise of indie rock with modern day incarnates like The Germs, Bipolar Bears, Best Coast and Little Girls. During scenes of house parties filled with gangly-faced young adults wearing flannel and tee shirts unadorned with popular labels, I actually forgot I was watching a film from 2011. Perhaps funny that this film should come out just a couple of weeks after Nirvana’s Nevermind album celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Dragonslayer drifts about amidst its hypnotising haze despite the hectic editing of Lizzy Calhoun and Jennifer Tiexeira. Despite lacking the initial visceral thrill of Senna, it’s form of vibe and atmosphere is just as potent. Echoes of the aforementioned Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park are perhaps too obvious, and yet pertinent with skating sequences that are crafted like stunning musical sequences and allow the athleticism to be truly appreciated. The way Patterson nestles himself in the culture is just so wonderful; these people never once talk about being “outsiders” or “losers” and the film works hard to show why they’re idols to an entire swath of people who have nobody else to look up to. These people know their future will ultimately not be the brightest, but they’ll be damned if they’ll let that get in the way of life. Dragonslayer is a superb film, a rich breakthrough and ultimately a transcending look at a culture that society (and, yes, even Hollywood) is letting slip away. It’s absolutely one of the best films of the year. A-

Dragonslayer is screening at ACMI until 16 October.


Anonymous said...

I miss your Scream series!

Anonymous said...

lame film. some crap film about a druggie

Anonymous said...

lame film. waste of time