SPF-18, the first feature-length film directed by the Los Angeles-based artist Alex Israel is, like so much of his work, about his native city.
“When you grow up in L.A., real life and the movies can get a little mixed up,” intones the voice that opens the film’s trailer, which was released over the weekend, as the screen fills with shots of teens riding rip curls and Malibu mansions seen from above.
And then, to hammer home the blurring line between life and film, Pamela Anderson runs down the beach, like she did on Baywatch, shocking the young surfer boys walking by.
The trailer for SPF-18 continues in all its Day-Glo glory, with teens deadpanning dialogue about a love triangle and pans over landscapes in sorbet hues. It’s soundtracked by the electro-tropicália of “All of Me” by Tanlines, a band with a very appropriate name for this movie. Many texts are sent. The production appears to be a mixture of the tone of Israel’s tongue-in-cheek talk show As It Lays, the brightly-colored palettes of his sky paintings, and the modern Tinseltown noir catchphrases he wrote with Bret Easton Ellis for his shows at Gagosian Gallery outposts in Beverly Hills and London.
Unlike those works, SPF-18 is a true movie that will make its debut not in a gallery but during a blowout Hollywood premiere on September 21. It will be released exclusively through iTunes on September 29, and a month later it will show up on Netflix. Plan your streaming accordingly.
The film is intended to be something of an homage to the hijinks in beach-bum teen flicks from the 1980s and ’90s, which explains the presence of Molly Ringwald, Rosanne Arquette, Keanu Reeves, and Anderson, who was in the news recently for her love poems to her maybe-boyfriend Julian Assange. It also bears a kinship to 2000s teen rom-com classics such as The O.C. and Laguna Beach.
Israel, who is repped by Creative Artists Agency (like Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen, and Rachel Rose), said in an email that he considers the film fully part of his artistic practice, and that elements from it have also figured in gallery shows. For instance, the wetsuits worn by the young surfers were shown at Almine Rech’s Paris outpost last June, in Israel’s solo exhibition “Summer 2.” (His previous show at the gallery was called “Summer”; this was the sequel.)
There will also be an educational aspect to the film’s rollout, programming that Israel considers to be a performative aspect of the work: in September and October, the artist will travel to high schools across America showing teens the film and speaking about it.
“It’s an artwork for teenagers, who watch movies at school, on iTunes, and on Netflix,” Israel said in an email. “Distributing it through their channels is key, and I can’t wait for our high school tour. It was great to collaborate with so many incredibly talented people whom I’ve long admired throughout this process.”
He declined to elaborate further until SPF-18‘s release, perhaps aiming to pique interest in the film even more. We’ll have to wait until the end of next month to see Israel’s vision in full. Until then, he full trailer for SPF-18 can be viewed below.