Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Flight of the Conchords & Eagle vs Shark

Flight of the Conchords is back. Yay! Jemaine, Bret and Murray are just as funny, sad and deluded as ever. And last night's episode proved they can certainly lay claim to being New Zealand's fourth best guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap funk-folk group for sure. Maybe even third... Oh yeah. And some..... I'm starting to think they're even better than the Mighty Boosh. But then again, it's much easier to say that when the Boosh boys are having a break from our screens. Live, last year, the Boosh were phenomenal! But I digress. As Movienoodle is predominantly super-twisty entwined with the marvellous world of movies, I thought we'd take a peak at Jemaine Clement's 2007 foray into film a la the weird and wonderful Eagle vs Shark. So here goes....

Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark is a quirky, offbeat indie film from New Zealand. It's directed by Taika Waititi, a multi-talented film-maker who comes from a stand up comedy/acting background. Taika's realm also encompasses writing and directing, and he has been involved in this capacity on several episodes of the off the wall comedy series Flight of the Conchords.

Conchord Takes Flight – Can Jemaine Clement Shine Without Bret McKenzie?

Flight of the Conchords' star Jemaine Clement plays the atypical love interest in Eagle vs Shark - a video game shop assistant called Jarrod. He throws a rather feeble fancy dress party where everyone goes dressed as their favourite animal and competes in a knockout tournament of the computer game Fightman (hence the title, Eagle vs Shark). Mild mannered Lily crashes this party in an effort to get to know the object of her affection a little better, and manages to impress him with her fighting skills.

Shark Seeking Eagle

Eagle vs Shark is an unconventional love story about two nerdy freaks who are just perfect for each other. Despite this obviously being the case, they can't quite manage to get together without a string of problems. Mostly, this is down to the self deluded idiot that is Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), whose visions of grandeur serve to sabotage his own chance of happiness. Over the course of the film Jarrod comes out with some absolutely corking (and ultra quotable) reasons for his spoilt brat-like behaviour, such as “I'm so complex”. His infinitely patient and understanding girlfriend Lily is so smitten, she accepts his nonsense without question. Lily is played by the wonderful newcomer Loren Horsley, who brings a gentle sweetness to the role of the awkward, geeky hamburger waitress. Horsley also wrote the original story on which Eagle vs Shark was based.

Napoleon Dynamite

Eagle vs Shark draws frequent comparisons with that other comedy hero of ineptitude, Napoleon Dynamite. The films do come from the same comedy stable - they both take the lives of losers as their subject matter - but whereas Napoleon's quirks are played for laughs, Eagle vs Shark engenders a more emotional response. Lily's generosity and forgiving nature gives the film a heart and soul to identify with and root for, whereas Jarrod's misplaced anger provides the memorable (and quotable) lines. The film fits more appropriately within a tradition of idiosyncratic, character driven, modern antipodean cinema. The backdrop of a rundown suburban New Zealand might be a world away from the beautiful landscapes portrayed in Lord Of The Rings, but it does possess echoes of recent antipodean hits such as Strictly Ballroom, An Angel at my Table, Muriel's Wedding and even Chopper.

Comedy, Arthouse, Romance

Another interesting facet of Eagle vs Shark is the way that the film is interrupted at various points by funny little animations. These help to illuminate the main crux of the story in a subtle but entertainingly art-house manner. Interestingly, director Waititi describes his film as “the first ever New Zealand Arthouse romantic comedy”, on his myspace website.

Waititi developed Eagle vs Shark with the help of the Sundance Director's Lab, and it was well received at its inaugural Sundance screening, during 2007's festival. With a little bit of luck, the international exposure Flight of the Conchords has garnered on TV will help to ignite the interest of a new audience in Eagle vs Shark. The film has been available on dvd in the UK since 2008, so if you haven't seen it it's well worth seeking out. Especially if you're into arthouse romantic comedy.