Magazine article Metro Magazine

Crystal Voyager

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Crystal Voyager

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

CRYSTAL VOYAGER

SURFING FILMS WERE A PHENOMENON OF THE 1970S AND A SIGNIFICANT ELEMENT IN THE RENASCENT AUSTRALIAN CINEMA OF THE PERIOD. AND AS KEITH BEATTIE'S ESSAY REMINDS US, THEY WERE ALSO REFLECTIVE OF WIDER CULTURAL MORES, INCLUDING NONCONFORMIST LIFESTYLES AND ENVIRONMENTALIST CONCERNS. CRYSTAL VOYAGER IS INTERESTING FROM VARIOUS STYLISTIC POINTS OF VIEW TO WHICH BEATTIE'S INSIGHTFUL ANALYSIS DRAWS ATTENTION.THESE INCLUDE MATTERS SUCH AS HOW'GREEN ROOM' EFFECTS WERE ACHIEVED THROUGH INGENIOUS CAMERA PRACTICE OR HOW THE NARRATIONAL VOICE OF THE FILM'S MAKER WAS DEPLOYED. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A SURFING ENTHUSIAST TO FIND THIS THOROUGHLY RESEARCHED ACCOUNT ENLIGHTENING; IF YOU ARE, THAT'S A BONUS.

BRIAN MCFARLANE

--SERIES EDITOR

The voyage out

Described in 1975 as the 'most highly acclaimed surf movie ever produced in Australia', Crystal Voyager (1973), directed by Albert Falzon and produced by David Elfick, is a documentary portrait of surfer/ inventor/filmmaker George Greenough that exceeds and rewrites 'sober' (informational) documentary representation. (1) The vehicle for this revision is the film's final section--the 23-minute sequence titled 'Echoes'--which was filmed by Greenough and incorporated into the structure of Crystal Voyager by Falzon and Elfick. At first glance the two sections may appear misaligned: the earlier section, with its details of Greenough's career; and the later section, which Greenough filmed with a camera rig alternately strapped to his back or mounted on the nose of the kneeboard he rode within the 'tube' of a cresting wave. Notably, the latter sequence fills out the portrait--it literally illustrates the work of the eccentric subject and thereby informs the portrait of the first section, carrying it over into the remainder of the film. The reportage of the first section--which is narrated by Greenough--is, then, effectively complemented by the actualisation in the 'Echoes' sequence of Greenough's innovative kneeboard surfing and breakthrough, 'immersive' camerawork.

Greenough was well placed to comment on surfing and surf filmmaking. Fie is widely credited as an influential contributor to innovations in surfboard design in the late 1960s and early 1970s. FHis major contribution to the development and introduction of surfboards --which, in comparison to existing longboards, were shorter and more manoeuvrable --was a new fin design. The fin Greenough invented was long and thin and, in later designs, it was flexible (he designed these prototypes using flexible carbon fibre, as opposed to fibreglass). The new fin--which was often used in new designs in combination with boards that in cross-section were V-shaped, an innovation introduced by Bob McTavish--permitted rapid changes in direction and sharp cutbacks on a wave.

Its success was such that Nat Young, who won the 1966 World Surfing Championship, was using a surfboard with a fin designed by Greenough. Greenough's innovations spread rapidly, contributing in a significant way to the late 1960s 'shortboard revolution' in surfing, but his talents also extended to filmmaking. He had filmed for many years, often using homemade cameras, and had produced a number of short films including Rincon 71 (1971), which deals with kneeboard riding at California's Rincon Point, and Rubber Duck Riders (1971), which features surf-mat riders and kneeboarders at various Californian beaches and breaks. (2) The two strands of his career--surfboard design and surf filmmaking--provide the creative background for Crystal Voyager.

The film that became Crystal Voyager was originally conceived as an accompaniment to the summer re-release of Morning of the Earth (1971), the financially successful surf film that was also directed by Falzon and produced by Elfick. (3) Early in his working life, Falzon, then working as a photographer for a Sydney department store, had sent photographs to Bob Evans, who published them in his magazine, Surfing World. …

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