dear suburbia reviewed, by steve shearer.
or how I learned to stop hating and learnt to love the artifice of beautiful commerce.
Written by Steve Shearer.
Like many others around the world I luxuriated in the 24hr free premiere of Dear Suburbia, or Queer Suburbia as some online wags quickly tagged it, not without justification.
It took me some time to realise that I wasn’t watching the movie but advertisements associated with it’s sponsors and this is maybe the most significant feature of this gorgeous film. Finally, Capitalism and Art have been blended in a seamless coherent whole. The distinction between content, meaning and commerce has become invisible: personality becomes brand, the perfect trojan horse to mind fuck youth under the guise of anti-suburbia.
The complete and final victory of style over substance.
And thats Dane Reynolds, our favourite surf star rebel as numero uno “branding” app. It’s got to wake you up at night don’t it Dane: this yawning chasm between the myth and the reality. A well paid clothes horse and peddler of sugary legal speed.
Like all other surf films of the modern Era the brown man of the third world is treated like an exotic warm visual prop. Maintained at a safe distance from the well paid and flighty talent but used regularly to provide emotional ballast to weight the unrelenting parade of air reverses. Cutaway fodder for white hipster fantasies, like the slums, tenements and ramshackle buildings.
Who’ll be the first surf film-maker to bridge the yawning chasm between the white world of surf consumption and the third world which it plunders for visual treasure? There’s a stink about the way this business is conducted.
Moving right along film freaks
– no harm in identifying the species or grinding the gears- late model capitalism will struggle on bravely for a while yet. It was sometime during the second half of the film when I realised I was falling in love. My critical faculties were being dulled by the finest surf soundtrack since Morning of the Earth and something Dane did on a head high right in the Ments blew my tiny mind into pieces. I don’t have the nomenclature to hand, some honest toiler will only dispute the name but it planted a tiny seed of an idea which sprouted into a luxuriant and unruly mind plant of it’s own.
Yes, the androgynous hipster models and faux-surreal set pieces were a slight distraction, but that was offset by the delicious schadenfreude of imagining the circle jerk when the proof of concept was first floated. You can imagine the quivering hand downing a macchiato before the installation concept was worshipped with a chorus of self-congratulatory yeewws and whoots. No harm done and in the digital download era, easy enough to fast forwards through. There’s always the chance too, of a deeper meaning hidden in the “art” direction. We can live with the audacity of hope.
No, it was in spite of that. Norman Mailer spoke of the singular genius of Hemingway being his mastery of creating a mood. At least I think it was him. No amount of google searching will reveal the quote so it’s possible I made that up completely. No matter. It was the mood, pure and simple which began to beguile me and soften my hard heart. Landscape, portrait and action began to mesh perfectly with expansive music.
Fuckers got me; my last critical thought stabbed impotently before melting into the overwhelming mood of something like mental bliss.
It was Dane and John John in Japan. Not the disinterested Dane from Modern Collective, or the sweet and tender hooligan of a declining Pro Tour which dared to dream on the back of his talents, but a harder more confident surfer operating at the peak of his powers. The absurdity of a man being paid to go surfing remains at it’s apotheosis in the career of Dane Reynolds but here finally was proof that Dane, if not in the process of becoming the hardest working man in showbiz was at least prepared to put the sizzle on the steak when the cameras were rolling.
But wasn’t there something else happening in those gaping rivermouth typhoon tuberides? Despite the ironic fact that Japan had noiselessly and without epitaph slipped off the Pro Tour radar wasn’t this generation defining sequence in fact heralding in the new template of Pro surfing? Is it not true that these two supreme talents were offering a contemporary analogue of the great AI/Slater battles?
The contests we will never see under the current format due to Dane’s withdrawal from competition. This was the World Title, unofficial to be sure, but undeniable nonetheless. The two best surfers in the world going full tilt in surf of size and perfection.
I’ve got no doubt the Japan sequences are the best surfing ever captured on film. Bring the fucking noise on if you disagree: Martin Potter in Strange Desires, Occy in Pump, Andy Irons in Campaign 2, Slater at Soup Bowls in Sipping Jetstreams…..they all rate a mention but Dane and John John Florence blow all that has come before it out of the water.
I can’t really remember what happened after that. But the atmospherics of the closing sequences set to Brian Eno and Joy Division were sublime. This is a far superior film to Modern Collective and Lost Atlas even if it’s heart is black and it’s pretence galls. We are all struggling in the web of commerce, preyed upon by bloodthirsty spiders, remote and empty as suburbia, voyeur and parasites on a culture that once existed free from the stain of the market. Yes. It’s over now. And it has been for quite some time. Nothing will bring it back, not Billabong folding, not Rip Curl getting sold down the river. In this post-commercial landscape our Queer Suburbanites wander the globe like Ironic Gods, unsure only of their omnipotence.
Dear Kai, Brazil exists and it’s coming to kick your arse.
Dear Surburbia, a film by Kai Neville was premiered Sept 12 at The Beach Hotel Bondi.