Friday, February 25, 2011


Warp Films

Most of you know him as Moss, Dean Learner, Thornton Reed or Saboo. But Richard Ayoade's been directing for years, working on hip (read: weird) music videos for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, Super Furry Animals, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets. He also directed AD/BC: A Rock Opera (with Matt Berry) and episodes of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. Submarine, due out in the UK March 11, is Ayoade's debut feature.

All the Ayoade music videos I've ever seen don't make much sense. So a 97-minute feature film - you'd assume - would force him to tie up a tight, comprehensible narrative that even someone as un-cool as me could understand. In the end, it's the combination of Ayoade's odd, non-nonsensical style and the regular constraints of feature film that makes Submarine work so well. Really, the story's a perfect fit for Ayoade's unique style.

Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, the film tells the story of Welsh teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a young boy dealing with all the regular (and not so regular) pangs of growing up. Desperate to lose his virginity, he scours his classmates for the most likely-to-say-yes. Then he meets Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), an odd but cute-looking pyromaniac way beyond expectations.

Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets) wrote the music for the film. And there's a strange sense of 'Turner-ism' running through the whole thing. Roberts looks (and dresses) a lot like Turner. Paige even looks like a young Alexa Chung. And together, punctuated by Turner's voice singing the songs, Oliver Tate and Jordana Bevan look like an awkward, teenage version of the couple.

Overall, the film's a perfect blend of mundane and fantastical. It's like Wes Anderson meets Adrian Mole and Alex Turner (in Wales). Ayoade's style is light and heavy at the same time. And the film stirred up all those deeply buried teenage insecurities and emotions I thought I'd let go of so long ago. Afterwards, I heard some people calling Submarine "bleak" and "typically British." Instead, I found it hopeful and uplifting. A strong debut by a talented young filmmaker.

Oddly, the poster says "Ben Stiller presents." He's billed as an executive producer, been to all the premieres, done all the interviews and even makes a small cameo in the film on a TV screen as a fake soap opera star.

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