I'm not quite sure how to critique Follow Me. The only film on Gene McCabe's directorial resume, this 1969 surf film is less like a narrative fictional feature and more like a travelogue. The Endless Summer, widely considered to be the best surf film of all time, was released 3 years earlier, and it looks as if Follow Me takes all of its stylistic cues from that film (I haven't seen it, so I can't say for sure). Still, regardless of where the technique comes from, it turns the movie into a total (albeit lightly enjoyable) time capsule; it's the kind of movie they really don't make anymore, if they ever really did.
The plot, if you could call it that, concerns Claude Codgen, Mary Lou McGinnis and Bob Purvey (playing themselves, I guess, or characters with identical names), three young surfers looking for new and exciting places to hit the waves. The film starts in Portugal and ends in Hawaii, with five other stops in-between. At each one, the characters stop and absorb some of the local culture before heading down to the beach and showing off some of their moves.
Despite having psuedo "characters" and a clothesline "story", most of the things people expect out of a movie are not present. For instance, there is no dialogue; instead, Codgen provides voice-over narration describing what they were doing during each chunk of footage. It's kind of like an updated version of a silent film, which would probably have used on-screen captions similar to the way Codgen narrates. Most of the material is lightly jokey and playful in a truly innocent, "Brady Bunch" kind of way, and the film moves along at a fairly fast clip.
Given that there is no real acting and a limited amount of writing to cover, the only thing that really matters is the direction and cinematography, which is generally pretty great. It's surprising how easily Follow Me retains the viewer's attention despite long passages of surf footage set to music, but thanks to McCabe and the wonderful cinematography of Jim Freeman, Greg MacGillivray, and Michael D. Margulies, the film really feels like a log of history, a snapshot of all the places the production visited and the time period it was taken in.
I admit that I don't have much to say about Follow Me, but I feel it's more of an experience than a film that can be dissected and analyzed. I can tell you what it's like, but to know whether or not you'd enjoy it, you have to get a taste of it for yourself. I see the film was produced for Cinerama theaters, and I can only imagine that it'd be an enjoyable film to spend a little time with on one of their gigantic screens. It's a weird combination of interests at play here, but if you're into travel, history, surfing, or cinema, you might want to give Follow Me a look, especially if you'd like something that cruises outside the norm.
As I described in the body of the review, Follow Me comes in a case adorned with suitably 1960s-esque poster art that intrigued me. The back cover is fine, and no insert is included.
The Video and Audio
Even presented in a brand new 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Follow Me can't really stave off even a few months of its 41 years. When they're accurate, the colors are all right (probably more vibrant and striking than they've looked since the film was in theaters), but quite a few shots are straight-up wonky, bathed in a bold blue tint, like someone dipped the negative into blue ink. Aside from that weird glitch, there's also a slew of print damage, murkiness, and general wear and tear. A mono track sounds a bit better than the picture looks, for its age. It's a touch fuzzy and a touch canned but gets the job done. No subtitles are included.
I was a little worried firing Follow Me up that it'd be a slog, because the knee-jerk reaction is that it's dated and cheesy, and that its old-fashioned style would be better suited to sustain a half-hour or 45-minute feature. But I quickly settled into a pleasant groove and coasted with the film across the beaches of the world, as if I was on a miniature vacation. That said, there are no extras to put this material in context, and I doubt everyone will find it as hypnotic as I did, so I suggest you rent the film before making a purchase.
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