SK8 LIFE (S. Wyeth Clarkson) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Before MTV-hatched "extreme" shows like Jackass gave masochism a mainstream break, teens had to watch bootleggish skateboarding video cassettes to witness the joy of self-inflicted pain. Those were the days.
S. Wyeth Clarkson, writer/director of Sk8 Life - which screened at this year's SUndance fest - hangs on to the off-the-cuff feel and gritty aesthetic of those 90s skate tapes but does a 180 with the hook: rather than concrete-stairway-tumbling feats of physical suffering, a serious dramatic narrative holds the focus.
It's a made-up story about real-life pro Kris Foley, who enlists his teenage pals to help him make a skate video so he can use the funds to save his East Vancouver home, affectionately known as the Crashpad.
Of course, the plot's an avenue for introducing exciting footage of agile skaters (including pros Dustin Montie and Alison Matasi) doing their thing on half-pipes and concrete spaces across Van City.
That stuff is better than the acting, especially Foley's. He sometimes delievers his forced nonchalant dialogue like he's doing a voice-over for a Corn Pops commercial, especially when "connecting" with the kids over tough issues like divorce.
Points of cheese, however, are redeemed by visual elements: tasteful use of Waking Life-style rotoscoping technique, warm cinematography and an intimate perspective on skate culture. (February 9-12, the Royal; Clarkson will attend on Friday.)