Seventies California, long hair, destroyed Vans, days all the same with whistles to the girls on Venice Beach and surfboards under the arm, waiting for waves to demonstrate freedom and originality. A borderline life, bare-chested, sun or moon, and with rules as something to overcome. Thus the film “Lords of Dogtown” tells the adventurous and spontaneous story of three boys from Dogtown, West Los Angeles almost fifty years ago, who thanks to their spontaneity, friendship, freedom and originality rewrote the laws of skateboarding, starting from those of surf. No longer in the water but on the asphalt, given that in that year there was a wave crisis in California and consequently a surfing crisis. So from that year and thanks to the legendary Z-boys the era of scraped knees began, a real upheaval and as we know every revolution brings scars. That clan of surfers, the legendary Z-Boys, coined the fundamentals of a new way of conceiving skateboarding, aggressive and bold, impossible pirouettes and tricks. The three protagonists and pioneers were the phenomena Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams and Tony Alva.
The film traces the path of the revolution, from the idea to the experiments, up to the competitions, the triumph, the ruptures. There is the brutal and free California of the Seventies, there is the counterculture of a people who do not give up, there are the illegal pirouettes in the swimming pools of the rich in Beverly Hills, emptied by the drought of '75, and there is the legendary Jeff Ho & Skip Engblom's Zephyr Shop (played by the phenomenon Heath Ledger) made the headquarters of Peralta, Adams and Alva.
The character of Skip Engblom, played phenomenally by Heath Ledger, was decisive as a crazy and fascinating mentor to the young skaters. It is an explosive figure that inevitably characterizes the entire film. The presence of Heath Ledger allows the film to lift and in fact after his death many have underlined how he obsessively prepared for this interpretation, managing to match the cadence and physical presence of the real Skip Engblom.
Their story was also told, a few years before the famous film, in a 2001 documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” directed by Stacy Peralta.
“Lords of Dogtown” is a film filled with an atmosphere of fun, risk and melancholy. In fact, many of the Z-Boys, besides Peralta, collaborated with the production, participating behind the scenes. A film that exalts the needs, which have become virtues, of those who cannot sit still for a moment, key witnesses of a cultural transition, not only linked to skateboarding, which still today remains fundamental and at times inexplicable.
Between a song by Jimi Hendrix (Voodoo Child in the opening credits is worth the film) and a song by Joe Walsh, and then Bowie at full volume, with Hardwicke's camera stuck to the faces of the protagonists and the wheels of the boards, Lords of Dogtown manages to make even those who don't even know how to ride a bike fall in love with skateboarding.
You will be bound and fascinated by the trio as brilliant as they are, irremediably, destined to fall apart. Because the world, the three protagonists will discover, is subservient to one and only god: money. Peralta, Alva and Adams (the latter passed away in 2014 due to a heart attack, a skate purist who condemned commercial influence), balanced between wheels, board and road in a symbiosis that would lead them to be the kings of a entire generation. Absolutely unmissable.
The story of "Lords of Dogtown" in the end leaves us, in addition to a thread of sadness, the desire to be spontaneous and free, the desire to write one's own destiny by listening only to instinct and one's own morality without caring at all about the judgment of others. others but moving forward on their own path with incredible simplicity and maturity.