An introduction (in music videos) to Richard Ayoade

British filmmaker Richard Ayoade with actress Yasmin Paige on the set of his 2010 feature film, "Submarine." Via The Film Stage.
British filmmaker Richard Ayoade with actress Yasmin Paige on the set of his 2010 feature film, “Submarine.” Via The Film Stage.
Richard Ayoade likes to mess with your expectations. The British filmmaker directs our July 11 movie, “The Double” to look like a shadowy, gritty film noir built on psychological anxiety, but he delivers a film instead with the heart of a surreal black comedy.

The London-born Ayoade actually got his start in comedy, and he’s perhaps most well-known for his role as an actor in the British sitcom “The IT Crowd,” where he plays Maurice Moss, a socially awkward computer genius who can’t always find the right words, can’t bring himself to curse, and can’t dress himself without the help of his mum.

He has also built a cult following a music video director for alternative rock bands, where he often blends clashing cinematic influences into his short works. With a personal Top 10 films list that includes directors as diverse in style as √Čric Rohmer, Terrence Malick, Ingmar Bergman, and more, Ayoade has found plenty of visual inspiration to draw upon.

Vampire Weekend — “Oxford Comma” (lyrics NSFW)

Ayoade’s music video for Vampire Weekend consists of one long tracking shot that follows singer Ezra Koenig and his bandmates through a maze of surprising characters: livestock farmers, film crews, shoot-em-up cowboys and Indians, screaming revolutionaries, screaming fans, and even multiple sets of band lookalikes. By some reports, it took 17 takes to get everything right. The video has a distinct Wes Anderson vibe, as did Ayoade’s feature film debut, the 2010 dramatic comedy “Submarine”.

Arctic Monkeys — “Cornerstone”

Ayoade has made several videos for the British band Arctic Monkeys. In this one, singer Alex Turner hams it up for the camera in a single take, complete with bad lip synching and doe-eyed swooning against a poorly lit backdrop. As Stereogum points out, it almost looks like a fan video, which makes it quite a bit different from the over-the-top, ’90s-era graphics in another of the band’s videos for “Crying Lightning”, which Ayoade directed as well.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Heads Will Roll”

Perhaps the biggest group Ayoade has worked with is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In this video, the band plays to a hypnotized audience from a cabaret stage, behind a creepy lone performer out in front. The performer transforms from dancer to monster in a bewildering intersection of visual references to Michael Jackson, John Travolta, Teen Wolf, and Hellboy. Ayoade finds inventive ways to use glitter, ribbons, and confetti as stand-ins for blood. And the band plays on, seemingly unscathed, through the stylized carnage–until the very end.

Kasabian — “Vlad the Impaler”

Filmed on 16mm film and then transferred to digital, Ayoade’s video for this sinister Kasabian song is perhaps his most ambitious: a schlocky, grainy, old-fashioned horror story in just over two minutes. Starring British comic actor Noel Fielding from the BBC television series “The Mighty Boosh”, which Ayoade also starred in, the video follows a hipster caped killer as he roams the countryside looking for prey. In this NSFW behind-the-scenes interview for New Music Express, the band talks about all the fun they had with Ayoade while making the video, which unabashedly trades on campy, ridiculous old horror themes so deeply — promiscuous teenagers! hiding in the woods! nuns with burning stakes! — that you can’t help but laugh.

Jefferson Beavers serves as President of the Fresno Filmworks board, and he teaches journalism and film studies at Fresno City College.