Submarine

Submarine

It is a confident film – and a confident film-maker – that wears influences as obviously as Richard Ayoade‘s début effort Submarine.

Submarine – The story of Oliver Tate, a schoolboy from Wales, and his attempts to master adult relationships – is lovingly drenched in French New Wave cinema to the point where one cannot be helped but be dazzled by the audacity and appropriateness of it all. Godard, Rivette and Chobrol are all nodded to but it is François Truffaut and his 1959 work Les Quatre Cents Coups which best informs Ayoade.

The French director’s celebration of the very ordinary Antoine Doinel sees the young boy literally spun around by his life is an exercise in enlarging the small and in Tate’s Welsh mundaneness – he attempts to make his life more interesting with constructed strangeness – there seems to be a very British appropriation. Ayoade’s film even steals the shot of boy running down a beach and some how – wonderfully – manages to make it it’s own.

Oliver – well played by Craig Roberts – watches his marine biologist father Lloyd failing to engage in life and the casting of Noah Taylor as the educated fish expert recalls similar New Wave enthralist Wes Anderson and his 2004 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Opinions on Anderson’s story of the titular Jacques Cousteau-esque biologist played by Bill Murray are divided. Some suggest that it showed the frittering away of the promise that blossomed in Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, others that it showed the director stop playing in curiousness and make something with a core and a heart.

Zissou’s story – which includes Submarine’s Taylor in his crew – concludes with one of cinema’s most bittersweet moments where the overblown, pompous Steve comes face to face with his place in the scheme and importance in the undersea world. It is what Oliver Tate – and Ayoade – aspire to, and get very close to.

Close, but Roberts is not Murray and while has has some of the sardonic charms he cannot match the utter world weariness, something that is probably a good thing considering their respective ages. Anderson collaborator Noah Baumbach‘s 2005 film The Squid and the Whale talks of men similar in age to Tate.

Based on his own childhood in Brooklyn Baumbach gives us 16 and 12 year old Walt and Frank who struggle with father Bernard – Jeff Daniels – and his fall from arrogant novelist to diminished man.

Played by The Social Network‘s Jesse Eisenberg Walt fears the way the world swallows his Father and pulls him under the surface and into the mundane depths visualising this as the Natural History Museum’s model of squid and whale as the one pulls the other to its doom.

School has that effect on Walt, on Antoine Doinel, and on Oliver Tate, and is seldom presented as anything other than the place where strangeness and imagination must stop. The notable exception perhaps being Bill Forsyth‘s utterly charming 1980’s Gregory’s Girl.

In Gregory’s school children wander the halls dressed as penguins being given vague directions, Headmasters play lilting piano and “guerls play fitba’.”

Gregory, gormless in the middle, bobs along the surface of this oddness enjoying it rather than being dragged down to the depths. Because of this Gregory does not need a submarine.

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