Our man Rodeo Rod (Dirt’s South East correspondent) rocked up to London for the latest Collective flick- Seasons. Here’s what he thought.
If April 30th 2008 had been April 30th 1968, if the heavy rain and bruised skies had been dry and blue, if the Prince Charles cinema in London’s Leicester Square had been the Chinese Cinema in Los Angeles then the Collective’s latest release, Seasons wouldn’t have been playing. A surf movie would’ve been playing instead. Oh, and the place would’ve been trashed by drunk surfers ‘stoked’ and ‘amped’ to be seeing their idols on the big screen. Once upon a time in America surf movies played at local cinemas. The atmosphere was charged with excitement, fuelled by beer and weed and often resulted in chaos. Beneath the ‘bushy bushy blonde hair dos’ weren’t the innocent watermen that the Beach Boys sang about but the original surf bums who’d tuned in, turned on, dropped out and were carving a subculture as well as waves as a horrified America looked on.
David Hannay of Cycle Surgery (cyclesurgery.com) don’t have to keep bringing the finest bike films to the cinemas and bars of London (and elsewhere, see website) but they do and deserve huge thanks for it. They provide the venue and the film but we, the riders, have to provide the atmosphere and we need to start. There were no outward signs of American surf era enthusiasm for the film, perhaps because that’s the English way. I wouldn’t want to smash up the Prince Charles cinemas either as my excitement overcame me but surely the odd whoop of delight should be audible as the big screen shows us exactly what we want. Admittedly I was as silent as everyone else for the premiere of Season because during the ROAM premiere last year I nearly got kicked out / in for excitedly losing it when Peaty was shown holding his 224 above his head at Fort Bill. Pardon me.
Anyway, over 500 people attended the Seasons premier, some arriving late and in suits because they couldn’t get out of work. They said ‘excuse me, please’ as they squeezed into seats and then talked about work for a bit whilst ROAM played. No one was drunk because during ROAM the barman wanted a break before re-stocking the bar, depriving the Prince Charles cinema of a massive cash cow and the evening of some much needed old beer fuelled shouts and whoops. I was sober yet excited as ROAM ended and with polite clapping, SEASONS began. As the lights went down two years of waiting were up. The Collective will never make a bad movie, I’m confident of that, and so the anticipation was just about how good this one was going to be. OK, so the atmosphere wasn’t So’Cal’ in the 60s (I heard more ‘shhhhhhs’ than an XC bike has gears. Surfers 1 – Riders 0) but Seasons was about to begin, making life pretty good.
Outside, Leicester Square was all rain and Englishmen and on the big screen too rain and an Englishman. Peaty in Sheffield. It was really disarming. No dust, no location porn, just the weather and terrain we all spend most of our time battling. I sank, contentedly into my chair to watch it unfold.
Peaty is one of 7 featured riders followed by The Collective through the Seasons, this premise being the basis of the film. Watching the initial Peaty section was like looking at a Readers Wives section in a grot mag’ (or ‘amateurs’ if you satisfy your cravings on line). Of course, Peaty hasn’t been an amateur for well over a decade and looks nothing like the lasses spread on those pages and this analogy is aimed at the ground he rolls on. It’s bloody Sheffield! Fancy that, The Collective in Sheffield. The slick 16mm feel, the mad angles and the great tunes litter the section but still, bloody Sheffield! It’s rocks like we ride, it’s roots like we ride, it’s wet like when we ride: no dust, just mud. It’s Readers’ Wife terrain, not the comparative exotica that characterises the rest of the film. But the riding’s fast; fast in a way that we’ll never be fast. Watching Peaty in the unmistakably English sounding Wharncliffe woods provides a bench mark to measure yourself by. But don’t, you’ll get depressed. Peaty’s wit defines his narrations as we follow him through winter and into the following autumn (OK, fall). Coming out of his front door leaving for ‘work’ he laments on how Sam, Nathan and Greg don’t get rained on during winter training but that Sheffield winter rides make him harder, a fact you won’t argue with as this section unfolds: wet, rooty, rocky, Northern, fast and familiar. Don’t discount Peaty this year.
To describe Seasons rider by rider, Season by Season would take longer than it would to watch the film. Let’s face it, no-one is reading this review to try and decide whether the movie’s worth seeing or not. No one’s just watched the first two Star Wars movies or didn’t bother to find out if Frodo got rid of that twatting ring and we all know that Jason Bourne discovered whatever it was he needed to discover about himself. You are going to see this sooner or later and so to describe it is daft. Instead, explanations of why it works are what’s needed.
Post movie, in the Wetherspoons around the corner (top tip for Leicester Square by the way: drink in there or face financial ruin in a bar) the pundits’ comments began to be voiced. Over cheap ale the movie was dissected in a way that would bring divorce if wives were present and admiration from biology teachers with buckets of dead frogs.
Initially my riding buddies, Tim, Srdjan, Piers, Ed, Nathan, and I thought Seasons worked because it was voyeuristic. But that’s not it at all. Instead you become, for just over an hour, mates with this sickeningly rad bunch. Nowhere is this more evident than in the last section fall where all seven they come together to rip the bejeezus out of something Canadian and thanks to a headcam you are riding with your very very fast new friends. By fall you feel you’ve spent the year with them, and in the darkness of a London cinema or the lads / lasses night you’ll have when the first of your crew buys this and you premiere it at home, you have. You shared a Guinness with Peaty in winter, laughed with the infectiously funny Cam McCaul about the tattoo of a bird’s wing he was / wasn’t going to get on his forehead. You got an uplift with Stevie Smith and his Mum and you just know that someday he’ll be the fastest Canadian, just like he wants to be (and Sam Hill knows it too, if the film’s section at Golden is anything to go by). You found out why Bearclaw sometimes has to ride in a wetsuit and why Cam McCaul doesn’t. You rode at Kamloops in both winter and summer and chatted with Andrew Shandro about what riding has meant to him over the last 20 years and came away feeling that he’ll be riding long after you’ve quit. You told Thomas Vanderham: ‘yeah, man, you did run out of gears into that booter. Can you teach me to do that?’ Oh, and you worried about Matt Hunter riding his crosser that fast with a shovel on his back, but hey, friends worry about each other , don’t they?
I didn’t share this with my riding buddies at the time but the film works for another reason too: it teaches you about your mates. A week before the film, this same group of riders were sat with me around a camp fire in Afan after road tripping from London and yet here we were again around a table in a pub talking about the film. Admittedly, most of the movie shows shatteringly talented solo endeavours but during the sections you’re that rider’s buddy. You drove to the location together, built together and now you’re sitting back to watch him hit it, wondering if you’re insured to drive him home if he stacks it. Watching Seasons is the cinematic version of riding with a mate: at Chicksands, the BMX track, Glentress, Cwm Carn, the commute home or the hidden booters you built near your house that won’t last a week. Seasons hooks you into new friendships, new locations and might just progress your idea of what you and your riding buddies want to do on you bike.
But most of all, Seasons reminds us that riding is great. With that in mind, next time we’re all together in a cinema watching a film about the thing we love, can we all shout about it?
Rodeo Rod Fountain.
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