Ayoade On Ayoade | Book review by Steve Bennett

Ayoade On Ayoade

Book review by Steve Bennett

Ayoade On Ayoade is a book that could only have been written by Richard Ayoade.

OK, that's obvious, but this eccentric parody of pretentious film tomes, full of posturing, absurdity and brutally passive-aggressive swipes at his own ego is a clear reflection of his very distinctive wit.

As the director of two critically acclaimed, modestly successful features – Submarine and The Double – Ayoade her depicts himself as a difficult, domineering auteur, a man whose depth of knowledge of the art of film is matched only by his often impenetrably oblique way he shares that 'wisdom'.

The prickly interview he had with Channel 4 News's Kristian Guru-Murthy last month was, in fact, the perfect advert for the hostility to questioning his director alter-ego displays in the book, when questioned by himself in another guise. 'Anyone who criticises my films doesn't understand my films because had they understood the films they would have realised that they are beyond criticism,' is typical of his aloof pronouncements.

Ayoade On Ayoade is one massive tongue-in-cheek in-joke at his own expense and the pretentiousness that can surround film – and indeed the cult of celebrity surrounding every creator, born from endless rounds of promotional interviews. But in wilfully avoiding any real discussion of his work, the ex-Cambridge Footlighter nonetheless reveals an awful lot about his sense of humour, if not himself, revelling in awkward confrontation with an absurdist slant.

You can't help but read the antagonistic exchanges in his voice. 'I read somewhere that you regard your Jewish identity as being important to you,' the interviewer him asks the director him. 'It's very important. It's foundational.' 'And yet you're not Jewish.' 'No.'

Some of this is hilarious, although the joke can be spread a little thin, especially in the preposterous lengths the interviewee goes to avoid his meetings or the myriad of footnotes to send the reader scurrying around the page.

Presumably aware of the Q&A format's limitations, Ayoade dedicates the second half of the tome to a substantial number of similarly offbeat, inventive appendixes: alleged emails from his US agent; the script for a pompous art-house short, a response to a would-be director who sought his advice; film trivia; Terrence Malick's tweets… It offers more variation on a theme, although the ideas can be hit-and-miss, the finest are laugh-out-loud funny in their peculiarity. Even more so if you're something of an indie film buff yourself, and know Ayoade for more than being the funny-haired one from The IT Crowd.

• Ayoade On Ayoade is published by Faber & Faber at £14.99. Click here to order a copy for £11.24 from Foyles.

Published: 27 Nov 2014

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