Monday, September 29, 2008

Film #80: Skaterdater

Skaterdater is, to my knowledge, the first skateboarding movie ever, and still the best I've seen (Gleaming the Cube and Dogtown and Z-Boys are pretty good, though). Look at how deftly director Noel Black catches the innocent, all-barefoot hot-dogging of this Cali street gang (his steady cameraman Michael Murphy deserves props, too). And that this is a love story, ultimately, captures my sentimental side. It's a simple movie, really. for kids: skateboarder has to choose between his pals and the girl he's starting to like. But this skillfully wordless movie won the Golden Palm for Best Short at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for 1965's Oscar for Best Live-Action Short--however it lost out to Le Polet (The Chicken) by France's master filmmaker Claude Berri (Germinal, Jean De Florette/Manon of the Spring).

Noel Black went on to direct the shocking yet somehow laconic 1968 cult movie Pretty Poison starring a shy, shaky Anthony Perkins (what other kind of Perkins is there?) who finds himself under the utter erotic spell of a cute psychopathic cheerleader played by Tuesday Weld (in a career performance). Then the director went on to struggle with two more theatrical films, 1970's troubled Cover Me Babe with Robert Forster (who's role was to be played by Al Pacino, whom the studios hated) about a desperate student filmmaker, and Jennifer on My Mind, about a doomed romance between two New Yorkers who first meet in Venice. Then he largely settled for TV movie work and episodic fare for show like Quincy, Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, and One Life to Live. But he's produced three more theatrical releases: 1979's enjoyable A Man, A Woman and A Bank with Donald Sutherland and the incredibly lovely Brooke Adams; the obscure horror movie Marianne starring Kitty Winn (the nanny in The Exorcist and Al Pacino's girlfriend in Panic in Needle Park); and Private School, the 80s teen sex comedy with Phoebe Cates, Matthew Modine and Emmanuelle herself Sylvia Kristel.

Skaterdater is a sweet movie. It won't shake your world, unless you have a taste for Big Daddy Roth drawings and Hang Ten shirts. But it will give you insight into the beginnings of the skateboarder subculture. I love the jangly guitars by Nick Venet and later Republican political figure Mike Curb (who did the score for biker films like The Wild Angels, The Glory Stompers, and Born Losers). One last trivia note: its Assistant Director was Carroll Ballard, a contemporary of George Lucas and Francis Coppola and the later director of such similarly dailogue-deprived filmic studies as The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf, and Fly Away Home.

I wish there was a more colorful print available but thanks to SkateNUniverse for posting this 16-minute short on YouTube, in two parts! It rocks.

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