Friday, February 17, 2012


A rigidly structured yet free-floating documentary of a well-known skateboarder on the West Coast, "Dragonslayer" is slight yet disarmingly even-handed, never reaching the judgmental or hagiographic extremes it easily could have in more cynical/reverent hands. Not only that, but it feels as though director Tristan Patterson has unparalleled levels of emotional access with his subjects, who seem at times to disregard the fact that a camera is trained on them (or maybe not?). Either way, it's just as rough-hewn and well-soundtracked as a skater would make it, and it serves as a thought-provoking treatise on the netherworld between adolescence and adulthood.

Josh Sandoval, more commonly known as "Skreetch," is extremely well-connected on his circuit, and seen as a generally nice guy who used to be excellent at skateboarding. Now, he's a struggling father who moves from place to place, getting some skating gigs, trying to put together money for he and his new girlfriend to have a good life. He still skates and he still drinks and smokes weed. His teenage years haven't ended yet; the only job he can land is at the bowling alley, and his lack of self-respect seems to stem from parental neglect (he mentions some turmoil at home when he was young; his mom calls during the film but his relationship with her seems strained).

The film is all the more involving for its brilliant use of indie music (so good there was an article in "Film Comment" on it), which is commonly used in skate videos. The music itself isn't quite as effective when separated from the image, but when the two are married, greatness ensues. But the film thankfully isn't all gloss; there is some real pathos and wisdom here. B

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