by Tony Dayoub
Surfwise opened this weekend here, in Atlanta, at the Midtown Art Cinemas, and it is a welcome breath of fresh air for those tired of the summer blockbuster rollout. Doug Pray's documentary is an even-handed look at the quirky Paskowitz clan, often referred to as the first family of surfing.
Patriarch Dr. Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, left a promising career behind after two divorces to move to Israel in the 50s. After spending some time in the desert, learning to subsist on a diet of raw, natural foods, and introducing surfing to Tel Aviv, he returned to the U.S. where he met wife, Juliette. Together with their family of 9 children, they travelled across the country, surfing, following Doc's strict raw food diet, and observing the Jewish tradition while all lived together in a crowded 24 foot camper. In 1972, they established the world-renowned Paskowitz Surf Camp in San Onofre beach in California.
The film honestly depicts the fallout of such a nonconformist life on the now-grown children, and implies that Doc was more than a little selfish in his pursuit of his dreams. The nine siblings contemplate, on camera, whether they were well served by skipping society's obligations, such as schooling, for one. But while some bemoan their lack of business savvy or difficulty with normal societal routines, it is apparent that all nine of them have ended up leading interesting, and dynamic lives. Among them there are three rock singer-songwriters, two film producers, a chef, a surfing champion, a screenwriter, and a fashion designer, all successful to some degree.
The film is shot beautifully on high definition video, and is a fast-paced, enthralling look at family dynamics with a surf culture backdrop.
The Strangers continues plugging away at the box office while in the shadow of the more traditional summer fare, and for good reason. Written and directed by first-timer Bryan Bertino, it captures the helplessness, loneliness, and spooky anonymity of true fear inherent in an act of random violence. And it does it swiftly (less than 90 minutes) with a minimal amount of gore. No mere purveyor of "torture porn", Bertino masterfully knows how to manipulate our fears, giving us a voyeur's look at the action that rivals De Palma's stylings, and a sound design worthy of Lynch.
To say anything more of the film would be to dispel its necessary aura of mystery. But see this one twice, once on the purely visceral level of its horror genre, and the second time as a metaphor on Americans' submission to the faceless terror that haunted us post-9/11, for a time.
For a list of current and upcoming theaters playing Surfwise go to www.surfwisefilm.com.
The Strangers is currently playing nationwide.