Like the Hula Hoop, the skateboard was born in thel950s, but the fad of coasting on concrete was dead by the late '60s. Its current incarnation can be traced back to the Z-Boys, a gang of California teens surfing a derelict strip of Venice Beach in the early 1970s. Dogtown and Z-Boys tells the remarkable story of how a few young outlaws invented the aggressive art of modern skateboarding, and accidentally gave birth to a pop culture phenomenon. Narrated by Sean Penn, and edited with a graffiti pulse, this hyperkinetic documentary weaves music, vintage footage and stills with contemporary interviews of the Z-Boys as middle-aged men. Because the film was directed by one of its
subjects, Stacy Peralta, it has an edge of arrogance, if not vanity. But that also accounts for its uncompromising veracity and style.
The Z-Boys started out as surfing daredevils who liked to risk their lives between the timbers of a
crumbling pier, in the ruins of an abandoned beachfront amusement park. They surfed in the morning-perfecting a low-slung, finger-trailing style-then applied their moves to homemade skateboards in the afternoon. During a drought in Los Angeles, they would sneak into empty swimming pools and ride the curved walls until they were carving air-skateboarding’s first aerial stunts. Dogtown taps a rich archive from photojournalists Craig Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman. Riffing between still and moving images, the visuals have a hypnotic pull, and so do the characters. Between Tony Alva, who made the jump to stardom, and Jay Adams, who lost his balance to drugs and alcohol, these rebel angels offer a time-lapse portrait of paradise lost. Brian Johnson
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