The comedian, actor and director selects his top ten American films, as well as sharing a clip from 'The Double', his Dostoyevsky-adapted second film
Richard Ayoade first rose to fame as technically brilliant yet socially inept character Maurice Moss in the IT Crowd. However, it was his directorial debut Submarine – adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne of the same name – that really won him critical acclaim, shaping his reputation as a talented indie filmmaker as well as a comic actor. That was back in 2010. His follow-up film, The Double (out on DVD and Blu-ray from 4 August), is a modernized adaptation of the 1846 Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella and was released earlier this year. It is is a darkly surreal black comedy in which timid and unlucky-in-love Simon James (Jesse Eisenburg) is driven to the brink of insanity by his co-worker James Simon, who is physically indistinguishable from himself, despite each possessing polarizing personalities. It’s a truly exceptional and experimental second film in which the dystopian universe that the characters inhabit is as creepy as it is hilarious.
We spoke to Richard Ayoade about his top ten favourite American films. “This is by no means a definitive list”, he is anxious to point out. “Just a list of some really, really good films that I like a lot.”
The Double is released in DVD and Blu-ray from 4 August 2014.
MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937)
“It's about people who are going to look after their parents and how exactly they're going to do it - it's just great. I suppose there aren’t many films that tell you how to look after old people and ask ‘what is your duty?’ There’s this one particular scene where an elderly mother is on the phone to her husband in a public space and you can see her children embarrassed at how loudly she’s talking and as the phone call goes on you realise how sad what she’s talking about is. It goes from embarrassment to mortification and it truly is a great scene.”
“In some ways, I could choose any of Paul Anderson's films but Magnolia in particular. When I first saw it, I thought the prologue was one of the most exciting starts of a film ever. It starts with three stories about extraordinary events that introduces the theme of the film and is told with narration. It's about the fact that you can have extraordinary events that feel willed beyond what is logically explained. Someone I know objected to it because he thought the prologue was about coincidence but I don’t think it’s about coincidence. I think it’s about fate.”
THE GRADUATE (1967)
“In many ways The Graduate created a form of comedy that was done in films from then on. It was sophisticatedly deadpan but had an emotional resonance and it's exceptionally beautiful to look at – Robert Surtees shot it. I guess it’s about a passive character and that’s actually quite hard to do; a character that feels overwhelmed and unable to decide what the point of things is. It also uses montages that are purely visual and the use of 'Sound of Silence' is really interesting.” Have a read of Richard Aoyade speaking to Dazed about The Graduate last year.
CITIZEN KANE (1947)
“It's amazing. It's difficult to say too much about it that would be unusual but as a performance it’s an incredible performance and it’s just very funny – it plays like a comedy and has the kind of pace of a comedy.”
“It’s about someone new to their class in college and the relationships between them. I’m big on character and narrative and the feel of the story. Style is only interesting if it reflects a theme or does something – it's not interesting by itself.”
SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005)
“This is a great film. It’s essentially about how people repeat the behaviour of their parents and selfishness is in families and how people attempt to justify their behaviour and on what grounds. It’s about the foundations of relationships and whether they're essentially acquisitive or whether they're giving. I don’t think people are able to easily escape their own shortcomings, which I feel are buried in everyone - it's very hard.”
"Wes Anderson is always good as a director and I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel and it was just great. I largely like Rushmore in particular because of the character of Max Fischer and the fact that there are characters a little like that in all of his films, with their incredible enthusiasm and ethic and strong desire to make their mark on the world.”
THE CONVERSATION (1974)
“Mainly because of Gene Hackman and the loneliness of that character and the sublimation of his desires and his profession. Much like The Graduate, the score is also very interesting as there is only one piano but it treats it sonically to make very different sounds.”
“I find this film very interesting. It's another film about a sound recordist but in this he's discovering a murder. As an actor, John Travolta can be great. He was brilliant in Pulp Fiction and he's great in this film. He definitely has something even though he’s done films that are less interesting. I'm not nuts on Grease.”
STARDUST MEMORIES (1980)
“It's very hard to choose a favourite Woody Allen film as I love them all but I'd choose Stardust Memories if I had to. It’s particularly brilliantly directed. He’s recently become less interested in what films look like and I am a fan of that period where he had some great cinematographers and he experimented a bit with the form and what you could do with a comic film. It’s innovative in that way, in terms of the address and the tone of it. There’s something very funny about the theme of it – a filmmaker that doesn’t want to be funny anymore.”
The Double is released in DVD and Blu-ray from 4th August 2014.