Richard Ayoade

The actor from The IT Crowd and Director and Writer of Submarine and The Double picks Billy Liar and The Third Man.

Billy Liar

So this is just a few thoughts about Billy Liar. Which won’t be terribly articulate, so apologies… I can’t remember when I first watched Billy Liar, but I think was probably quite a big influence on Submarine (a film I directed a while ago).

Some things that stuck with me –

  • The idea of a Walter Mitty-ish dreamer in a small town
  • Tom Courtenay’s energy and portrayal of relentless optimism
  • Julie Christie seeing through it. How much more thoughtful she seemed.
  • Billy Liar’s unwillingness to engage with what was around him and his sense of viewing himself as being bigger than this town
  • But also… this slight weakness and fear and perhaps an unwillingness or incapacity to engage with his moral responsibilities
  • And yet you always care for him even when he is behaving quite terribly – you can forgive him so much because his fantasies are so compelling and understandable; if immature.
  • It is luminous and joyful

So that was something that we tried to remember with Oliver Tate, the central character in Submarine (based on Joe Dunthorne’s book).

The Third Man

The other film I’d recommend is The Third Man by Carol Reed. A Graham Green scripted film. I think the films Carol Reid made around that period: The Fallen Idol, The Third Man, Odd Man Out, are some of the best British films ever. Particularly, Fallen Idol. The Third Man has the sense of post war decay that films like Rossellini have, but maybe there is more magic to The Third Man. It’s more in the Hollywood tradition than the more European Neorealist tradition. Or perhaps what was interesting about British films at that time is that they seemed able to combine the best aspects of European cinema with the best aspects of Hollywood story telling.

Recommended Titles

John Schlesinger1963
Carol Reed1949