Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy: Tales From Painted Hawaii review

I don't know about you, but in my household we all loved Luxury Comedy, quoting the non sequitur dialogue at each other. Having loved his previous venture The Mighty Boosh, with the equally awesome Julian Barratt, Luxury Comedy took all the strangest parts of Boosh and mashed them together to create something like a absurdist art referencing free for all. A completely crazy antidote to the dreary monotony of contemporary television.

So, after two long years of waiting, the second series almost seemed too tame. I felt that moving the set from a random tree house to a coffee shop (in Painted Hawaii) was almost too pedestrian. Gone was his painted face and crazy clothes, and in was an apron and gothic mum-hair. The show also switched from random sketches to a more linear method of storytelling. If I'm honest, I felt slightly betrayed. Where was the surrealism!

One major criticism that people have expressed for Luxury Comedy is that it is so crazy that it becomes alienating, or worse, boring. Maybe it's an indulgence on Fielding's part taken too far. One thing that the second season does is to remove Noel as the omnipotent god of his own private universe, and to mock him for his own craziness. The ludicrous idea of balancing a coffee shop on the edge of a volcano, Noel being the only uncool person in the entire show, and Noel being the first person evicted from his fantasy land into a greasy spoon by Reality Man (played by Richard Ayoade), are all expressed to an almost apologetic degree.

Despite my early reservations, the more linear storytelling and lamenting plots strengthened the more surreal parts of the show. Just as Vince had the more straight jazz-loving loser in Howard to play off his weirdness against in The Mighty Boosh, Noel needs the harshness of reality in order to make the fantasy all the more idyllic. Surrealism always needs something to react against. Even the Surrealists wore suits.

The Paris surrealists, 1933: Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, André Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, René Crevel and Man Ray. Photo by Anna Riwkin-Brick. Photo found here. Breton wrote the original Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, describing the new movement as "pure psychic automatism".

If Noel Fielding had a manifesto, I imagine it would include statements describing the importance of a personal Fantasy Land, a safe place to follow your maddest ideas to their ridiculous conclusions, filled with your own personal mythologies. While not everybody may appreciate the surrealism of Luxury Comedy, it is something that we'd surely miss if it seized to exist.

For a score, I'll give this season a 7/10. The inclusion of doubt and threats from the outside world only gives more reason to why his fantasy exists in the first place, making it a richer place to experience. I personally enjoyed Warhol's activities with other cultural greats such as George Orwell and Yoko Ono (like all these famous artists get together to place cricket and stuff). At only five episodes though, it is an all too brief trip to Painted Hawaii.

If you're a fan of Noel Fielding and surreal comedy, then this programme is for you.


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