Thursday, August 4, 2011

Submarine (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

"Submarine", directed by Richard Ayoade and produced by funnyman Ben Stiller, is a lively coming of age tale that contains the cinematic influences of Hal Ashby, Woody Allen and Quentin Tarrantino. And it doesn't just give lip-service to these cinematic giants like so much visual garnish but interprets their signature styles into a new rhythm.

We have an anxious romance with a voiceover that could have come from Woody Allen. We have a young protagonist, Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) who broods and is obsessed with death. Tate could be a dead ringer for Harold in "Harold & Maude" (1971). And, last but not least, the film has a bold staccato pace in its imagery--notably the titles--- that might remind audiences of "Pulp Fiction".

Despite these nods to the autuers, "Submarine" has a fresh voice all its own. The melancholy and dough-faced Oliver Tate is determined to walk like a soldier through his colorless Welsh school, all the while constructing his hyper-sensitive daydreams where the people he knows are slightly more interesting than they really are. Oliver catalogs his own mental home-movies, presumably as a a solipsistic record that he and his romantic emotions for Jordana (Yasmin Paige) will count.

If this seems heavy and dense it isn't. "Submarine" has enough quirk in its characters to keep you laughingly entertained. There is a wallflower father (Noah Tate) who sounds like a one note organ and appears made of wood: "yes, I see.." There is the self made guru, Graham (Paddy Considine) who is the most comical character since Otto in "A Fish Called Wanda", for all of his self-centeredness and silly gesticulations, which appear all too real.

Finally, there is Jordana, who is like Oliver's twin image: dark and moody. When they stare at each other across a feild, they resemble two Edward Gorey illustrations placed end to end: Two Hallow Tween valentines.

No romantic cliffs for these young lovers. They coo over junkyards and smoking factories. Times have changed since Maude and Harold at the graveyard.

In a conventional film, these characters would remain cartoons. But thankfully every character is human and dynamic despite the outward appearance of camp. Better yet, this little film will keep you guessing. It has an edge of apprehension that doesn't give into an easy ending. "Submarine" makes you a voyeur in Oliver's own mental film. And right up until the end, you'll be wondering if Oliver will go under or attempt his reach.

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