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Step Into Liquid - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

THE surf is most definitely up at US cinemas at the moment.

Step Into Liquid is one of those raved about documentaries, in the Dogtown and Z-Boys mode, which has already gone down a storm at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

In short, if you've ever wondered what it would be like to ride at Pipeline, flirting on the edge of some of the ocean's most powerful and dangerous waves, then you're ready to watch Step Into Liquid.

Directed by documentary specialist, Dana Brown, explores 'the stoke' - the passion and elation - that keeps surfers paddling back for more, and finds it in some of the most unlikely places.

The film's website boasts that this is the most honest depiction of the surging culture ever laid to film, banishing memories of wish-fulfillment fantasies, such as Blue Crush.

Think Big Wednesday, told for real, and you'll be close of what to expect. This sounds like one for anyone who has ever been transfixed by the notion of surfing.

Dana's perspective on surfing is a wholly unique one, and he has seen it go from flaky fad to international phenomenon.

Moving far beyond the beaches of sunny Southern California, surfing now criss-crosses the globe, from Texas to Wisconsin, Ireland to Vietnam.

The film travels to some of the hottest surfing spots in the world, and concludes that the real search isn't for the biggest tube or most radical ride, but instead uncovers what it is about surfing that hooks people's souls.

There are as many surfer stories to be found as there are surfers, such as the guy who hasn't missed a day in the water for over 27 years. Or the one eager to get back on his board even after a crippling accident.

The film also pays notice to the rise of women in the sport, checks in on the subjects from The Endless Summer films, and follows one group of fearless surfers who head 100 miles from shore to ride some 60-foot-plus, once-every-ten-years waves.

US reaction

The critics have been raving about this one.

Entertainment Weekly leads the way, stating that 'Step Into Liquid is a great title for a surfing documentary, and the movie, written, edited, and directed by Dana Brown, lives up to that trippy sensual promise'. It awarded it a B+.

Likewise, Rolling Stone, which wrote that this is 'the best surfing documentary ever made'.

The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, referred to it as 'an enticing invitation to get your feet wet in the world of surfing, to experience the beauty and feel the rush of this most addictive of pastimes'.

And the New York Post felt that it is as 'transporting as its otherworldly title suggests'.

Citysearch, meanwhile, stated that 'the highest compliment than can be paid to Step Into Liquid is that even if you've never put a toe in the ocean, you will leave this movie wanting to surf'.

On the nagative side, Village Voice opined that 'beach-bum bumper-sticker wisdom is about as deep as the waters get in this draggy, visually underwhelming portrait of contemporary surf culture', while a little more mixed was TV Guide, which wrote that 'the various segments of his deeply uneven, globetrotting grab bag range from authentically uplifting to seriously silly'.

But, in the main, the film appeared to be riding the crest of the wave.

The Onion's AV Club wrote that it is 'essentially a long, handsomely filmed infomercial, it never removes its trembling lips from surfing's bronzed posterior, but it delivers enough of the goods visually that the choir it's preaching to shouldn't mind'.

While the New York Times felt that it 'belongs to that category of films, like nature documentaries and some Andy Warhol movies, that are pleasantly boring. They are neither too thoughtful to demand a critical response, nor too complacent to invite ennui'.

But, more positive still, was the New York Daily News, which felt that, 'for some, this is the next best thing to being there', and, finally, LA Weekly, which concluded that '[director Brown] takes us above, inside and underneath monstrous waves with thrilling verisimilitude'.

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