Saturday, May 26, 2007

"I'm just lucky."

Occasionally an advert will just come through your line of fire and stun you. The first time I saw Volkswagen's Night Driving Advert for their Golf, I got goosebumps. Everything about it was right - the look, the editing, the shot selection, the music, and the voiceover. In case you haven't seen it, check it out:

It obviously plays in Michael Mann's sandbox, even plays with Michael Mann's toys, so much so that I wondered whether Mann himself had actually directed it. The digital photography, those ochre and orange skies, the sleek mobility of the car itself, the focus on the sodium light upon LA streets - it all feels very "Collateral". Well, Mann didn't direct it, but it was shot by one of "Collateral"'s photographers, Paul Cameron. Which explains its stark, vibrant beauty very well. Director Noam Murro is an experienced advertising guy - he did that Levis "A Midsummer Nights Dream" campaign a couple of years ago, and his first feature - which I'll be looking out for, now - is out later this year. The quiet, insistent music is by Cliff Martinez, "Don't Blow It" from the Solaris soundtrack, I think. But probably the key element is the voiceover. Richard Burton could make Chris Martin lyrics sound poetic, and his reading of a passage from Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" (from Andrew Sinclair's 1972 film version) is perfectly, wonderfully judged, and masterfully cut to the rhythm of the visuals. Its that rare creation, a beautiful advertisement, and it makes me wonder why so many bad adverts get made. Theres a great website where you can view it in pristine hi-def and edit an extended version here.

The notion of beautiful advertisements and Michael Mann made me think of "Lucky Star", a 2002 spot he directed for Mercedes, starring Benicio Deltoro and Ana Cristina Oliveira. BMW had enjoyed a great deal of publicity and success with their series of linked adverts, "The Hire", starring Clive Owen. Owen played a Driver in an eclectic series of short films directed by big guns like Wong Kar-Wai, John Woo, Joe Carnaghan, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer, Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, executive produced by David Fincher and Ridley Scott and co-starring Gary Oldman, Madonna, Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke and Ray Liotta. The films were available for download from the BMW website and a DVD containing all of them could be purchased. "The Hire" was even spun off into its own comic series. My favourite of the bunch is Wong Kar-Wai's, which somehow manages to work within the imposed limitations as both a generic entry in the series and as a Wong Kar-Wai art film:

Mercedes were obviously hoping to ape their rivals success when they hired Mann. Conceived in the form of a trailer for an imaginary film, "Lucky Star" is Mann doing Mann, rifling through a quick selection of his visual obsessions and stylistic tics, and seemingly enjoying it along the way. Its so convincing as a trailer that it must have confused many who saw it, especially in cinemas, when it screened in 2002. Its a short sharp shock of pure style, and the best ending to this little film festival:

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Blogger Monsterwork said...

You must have had people ask for Lucky Star in the shop. I did.

I loved night driving, when my friends took me off some empty places at gone midnight. That advert captures it. In the light streets are crowded and dirty. Then in the tint of night they are these beautiful ghostly arteries.

Except it didn't have a coyote crossing the street in front of his car, and the lights refecting in its eyes. That happened to me all over Cudham and Sevenoaks. Like twice a night.

10:53 am  
Blogger daveysomethingfunny said...

I hadn't seen any of these before, then straight after reading this I switched on the tele and the VW one was on. Freaked me out a bit.

It surprises me a little that these film-makers, these 'artists' would lend themselves to advertising automobiles and the like...whoring themselves out.

I'm probably just being snobby, the adverts are good. It might just be a different challenge for them, or a welcome change of pace. Also they may have been paid lots.

I quite like the nike running one at the minute, not in the same league as these but still, a cut above the usual fare.

10:15 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Yeah I really like the Nike one, too.
You just have to try to look at them outside the context of the product they're promoting. Because obviously most big studio films are just chock-full of product placement these days anyway. At least these advertisements are up-front about it.

I love that the VW one is in circulation at the moment. I watched an hour or so of tv tonight and saw it, which made me happy.

Me and my friends used to drive around Dublin late at night too, listening to music. I aways loved it.

11:27 pm  
Blogger Ross said...

I hate the Nike one, it comes across as pretentious and cool-by-numbers a la the Mac ads.
Maybe it doesn't help that the actual runner annoys me intensely. The voice over for it is so 'cool-life aspirational', it's like that camera ad doing the rounds now with the groovy people falling out of the sky to take pictures - buy this camera and you can take cool pictures too!

I get some of the idea behind it - the run can be an experience, it can be more than just a mechanical function for exercise - the places you go, the feeling of it all blah blah blah, but the way the ad sells it to you just feels shit. The experience is no more profound than Davey sitting outside his house, but that wouldn't fit with Nike's projected image as a sports shoe when any fule no that most people just have them as day-to-day footwear.
None of that running shit.

I didn't like the Kar Wai ad so much when I watched it last night, but I like it now.
Most of those car adverts were shit, that VW one is the only one approaching good I've seen in ages. Car ad, I mean.

10:45 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Whats good about the Nike one is almost purely sensual - its just a collection of beautiful shots edited together. I don't even think about what its trying to suggest about running, I try not to listen to the voiceover. But the visuals are lovely.

The VW one wouldn't make me want to buy a Golf, but I wonder if theres some value for a brand in being associated with great adverts. Guinness consistently produced imaginitive, distinctive adverts over the last 20 years or so, but few of them are of the type that obviously suggest the viewer should be drinking Guinness. But the fact that Guinness are a company with the nous to make such great adverts - or at least hire agencies to make them - does that encourage people to drink Guinness?

11:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were just watching the Night Driving advert and wondered where the poem was from. We found all the information we needed in your blog. Thanks!

6:56 pm  

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