Heralded as one of the greatest surfing films of all time, Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman's laid back Five Summer Stories is not really a collection of five summer stories but a cinematic time capsule of the surfing sights and sounds of the early 1970s. It gets a nostalgic screening with a panel discussion at the Newport Beach Film Festival today in honor of 50 years of MacGillivray Freeman Films of Laguna Beach.
Indeed, I can think of no recent film (American Hustle included) that so quickly teleports one back to the days of Hang Ten shirts, mismatched bikinis and Mr. Zog's Original Sex Wax. All that's missing while viewing is the warm smell of Coppertone and colitas rising up through the air.
Five Summer Stories had its world premiere at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972, and a huge catalyst for the time tripping are the included songs by the likes of the Beach Boys, whose "Feel Flows" opens with bars that sound as if they were lifted from the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" of five years before, and Honk, who to Orange Countians were as big as at least the Beach Boys if not the Beatles back in the day.
Unlike the surf flicks of more recent times that are amped up by punk and hardcore, Five Summer Stories mirrors the mellow times with Honk's Joni Mitchellesque "Circles in Sand" set against slo-mo images of surfers gliding through North Shore barrels, wahines walking along the strand and keikis playing in the sand. Hearing news reports from that fractured time in America layered over the wholesome beach shots shows a whole segment of society that had tuned out if not dropped out.
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This was the beginning of surf porn--and, thanks to one segment, skateboard porn--as the names of wave riders like Gerry Lopez, Shaun Tomson and, Corky Carroll quickly flash on the screen before their sets. Their styles look so much more graceful and less aggro than what you see out in the water today.
What lifts this screening even more is the panel discussion afterward on the film's impact that is scheduled to include MacGillivray, Lopez, Laird Hamilton, Herbie Fletcher, Steve Pezman and Peter Townend. (5 p.m. at South Coast Village in Santa Ana; previous NBFF listings had it at 5:30 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinemas)
P.S. This is the first of two nights at the NBFF marking the 50th anniversary of MacGillivray Freeman Films: on Wednesday, MacGillivray leads a multi-media retrospective presentation featuring his most memorable filmmaking expeditions, which have included up the tallest mountains and into the coldest climes and deep blue sea. The Los Angeles Times' John Horn moderates. Then comes a screening of the large-format filmmaker's latest, Journey to the South Pacific, which is about a young island boy's adventures amid the islands of West Papua. (7:30 p.m. at the Lido)