When you get enthusiastic about something that you have seen, as we all do, all the time, how do you sell it to your friends? I imagine it would be by referencing other familiar things that you will all have seen and enjoyed. “It’s like Woody Allen on acid” or “If you liked The Artist, you’ll love The Fairy”. So what I have tried to do, in hours of quiet reflection, is to come up with a few broad categories which would require little or no explanation to reference what we have seen. Easier said than done.
Submarine, for example. It is not the Richard Ayoade of the IT Crowd but a domestic coming of age story set in the ‘80’s, not as gross as the Inbetweeners but sterner that sitcom. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: not your run of the mill romcom but a white collar adventure enhanced with Kristen Scott Thomas in Four Weddings’ waspish bitchery mode.
What do you do when faced with something as deadpan as Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre? It is a very serious comedy and you are two thirds of the way through it before you realise that it is Casablanca reworked for the present day.
Americans don’t do irony – until they do and do it rather well. Whit Stillman has been turning out comedies that rip the proverbial out of the wealthy and privileged for 20 years, ever since Metropolitan. Damsels in Distress may be broader than that but it is still able to hint at the ghost of Jane Austen haunting the quads of ivy league schools.
Having dropped out of college, how do you define the slacker movie? Well, the title of Jeff, who Lives at Home, does that fairly efficiently. What would you refer it to? Is Withnail and I the grandfather of slacker movies?
As for Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers, they come at the world from a singular trajectory, the co-ordinates of which only they know. Anderson has gone at the New York social elite in The Royal Tennenbaums, at the media ‘expert’ or adventurer in Steve Zissou and the Life Acquatic, in both cases giving his actors free reign to be grotesque and absurd but strangely human and vulnerable – the sort of thing at which Bill Murray excels. So Moonrise Kingdom, with its host of character cameos by famous faces looks at childhood and family life in Middle America with a particular charm and glorious sense of the ridiculous not normally credited to US comedy.
Ultimately, I think, you need categories if only to define things by the ways in which they do not conform. The very stuff of comedy.
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