REVIEW: The Grip of Film – Richard Ayoade

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Author: Richard Ayoade (twitter)

UK Publisher: Faber and Faber

Genre: non-fiction, humour, film

The Grip of Film is a hard book to categorize. I got it for Christmas, and was immediately excited by the brash, pulp-esque cover featuring a lovingly rendered version of Ayoade in a leather jacket and fingerless gloves. It is framed as Ayoade ‘presenting’ a brash, brilliant and unknown writer’s work, but Gordy LaSure is to Ayoade what Partridge is to Coogan. That’s the exact reference they use. LaSure is the Partridge of films.

The book opens with a wonderful and slightly baffling series of introductions from Ayoade in various guises – an ante-foreword as himself, a foreword by Skippy Briskman, an introduction by Gordy LaSure, and then a number of notes on the text to prepare the reader for what they are about to encounter. Ayoade also appears as a character throughout the book, adding sardonic footnotes, often bickering with LaSure’s bombastic claims and snide remarks about editorial aggression.

As with everything Ayoade does, this book is a pastiche with precision. The character of LaSure is so clearly delineated within traditional tropes you can hear his character being assumed with swagger by his creator. He swears, is casually misogynistic and claims that the 80s was the best period for film. One of the many notes at the front of the book is dedicated to gender in the book, and the use of ‘him’ instead of ‘him/her’ as an authorial device. LaSure claims he has been prevented by the editors from using him/her, so people shouldn’t get at him for being a simple, “ethnically non-diverse, cis-gender dude” in that defensive tone that so perfectly captures a certain portion of the world today.

After the copious introductions, the book functions as an encyclopaedia of film structure tropes. An ‘A-W’ (he couldn’t think of anything for X, Y and Z) to be referenced ad-hoc, rather than read continuously, start to finish. And, as with any reference book, it has an index. A delightful index, with a whole list on the various different references on ‘Ass Kicking’ (Ass-kicking, ultimate site of; Ass-kicking globally; Ass-kicking rampage, avoiding setting pre-emptive parameters for; Ass Talk; Ass VS Head; Assaulting Kevin Costner: When, where and how often).

This book is a studied exercise in silliness, with LaSure’s hyperbolic rhetoric perfectly mimicking the energy and OTT image of a Hollywood big shot; whilst Ayoade gleefully comes along and punctures it in footnotes, providing pragmatic observations reminiscent of his Gadget Man persona, perhaps with a little of Moss in there. It made me laugh out loud regularly, and I was nearly constantly reading out passages to my husband (who grumpily reminded me that he did intend to read it himself), and sending photographs of sections to friends. It’s a book to be shared and discussed and laughed over.

To add to this, the films chosen are not inaccessible, or overly highbrow. Or highbrow at all. Charlies Angels: Fully Throttle (not even the first one), the Avengers, Road House… Popular films that are as silly and over the top as the text.

Briefly:

  • Fun, quotable, and delightfully silly.
  • The films chosen are accessible, and the pastiches are entirely on point.
  • This isn’t a narrative though – I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this as holiday reading by itself. It’s quick and easy, but not involving in the same way as a narrative book.
  • Very clearly Ayoade, through and through.

Rating: 4/5 – it’s a lot of fun, it’s only that the format makes it tricky to settle down with. Definitely for reading with friends.

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Nicolas Cage – Kabuki Panda

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