While at a house party in Chino, California, director Tristan Patterson accidentally found a subject for his directorial debut in personable 23 year old skater punk, Josh “Skreech” Sandoval. In Patterson’s eyes he was the hero of the sun washed, wasted suburban youth generation, shrugging off responsibility as he wanders through the drug induced haze with surprising compassion. The film artfully captures Sandoval’s tail of skating abandoned pools, falling in love, and eventual submission to capitalistic adulthood with penetrating intimacy, and eloquent authenticity. Now a year since the conclusion of its award winning festival run, Dragonslayer is finally making its way to DVD thanks to the folks at First Run Features.
Sandoval’s first born, Sid, has just arrived, but unfortunately his relationship with the child’s mother has gone sour. Afraid of letting the child grow up in a home filled with anger and resentment, he leaves to pursue skateboarding adventures across oceans and vacant Cali backyards with the hope that one day Sid won’t hate him for it. At his home base at the Fullerton skate park, despite his meandering, he meets Leslie Brown, a young woman who’s seductive cool could have been pulled right out of an early Godard film. An awkward romance starts to bloom between the odd pair amongst the constantly changing faces around them. Starting to feel stagnant, the two decide to rid themselves of everything but the bare essentials and hit the road, but soon realize that sometimes growing up means just that.
The film is carried by the likable skater, but its strength comes in Patterson’s mastery of story telling. Sandoval’s story is structured into a countdown to the acceptance of responsibility as both a parent and a functioning adult in today’s society. This countdown is beautifully shot in mostly close-ups struggling to focus in on its subjects, but once finding those meaningful moments it displays them with extreme, but delicate clarity. In addition to the crew’s footage, Sandoval was given a flip-cam to capture the chaos of partying, and the self realizations of parenthood from his own point of view. The combination of its curious story structure, visually striking genuine footage, and unique contemplative characters gives the film a feeling more atone to fictional indie productions than a documentary.
As we continually move forward, slowly letting go of former format champs, its sad to see films as wonderful as this get passed over for the Blu-ray treatment, but there isn’t much in the A/V department to complain about in First Run Features’s DVD release. Patterson’s visuals come across with adequate clarity and detail, with minor distortion to be found. In this case, it may even help blend the high quality HD footage with Sandoval’s rough flipcam footage, but that is up in the air. The punk laced stereo track sounds wonderful at high volume, with plenty of low end, and crisp, clear dialog. Sadly, the is almost nothing for extras included on the disc, which comes packed in a standard DVD case.
Nestled snuggly within the disc’s menu is a written introduction to the film by Patterson that recounts his introduction to Skreech at a party.
Also stuck in the menu screen, this is literally one sentence that reads, “Tristan Paterson is a director and screenwriter living in Los Angeles.” Not much of an extra if you ask me.
Patterson’s real life encapsulation of a Southern California romance is a unique look at youth in revolt where nostalgia and smoke permeate the screen. Its dimed punk soundtrack, and quick editing give the feeling of Sandoval’s life rushing by as he wanders between camping out in a tent in a friend’s backyard, scoping out potentially deserted pools, and drunkenly getting burgers with Leslie. Dragonslayer authentically portrays Sandoval in all his adrift glory while seeming to blur the lines of what a doc can be with effortless craft. As one of the best films of last year, this disc gets an easy recommendation, but not because of an excess of bonus goodies.