Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"Things Got Broken"

I like John Hillcoat's feature work very much. The Road is one of the most impressive films released over the last twelve months, but his filmography is strikingly consistent - both The Proposition and Ghosts...Of the Civil Dead are violent, dark and muscular with a streak of black humour laced through them. He seems an individual, distinctive filmmaker with his own voice, visual style and thematic preoccupations. Which is why his work for Levis on a new advertising campaign is somewhat disappointing. Not that the spot is anything less than fantastic; its not. Its beautiful, finely edited, evocative and even moving in an understated way. But there is little of Hillcoat in it, as far as I can see. Instead, it feels like a blatant attempt to co-opt the spirit and style of Terrence Malick to a Levis commercial. So we have a young girls soft narration over wispy, langorous, stunning footage, some of it near-abstract (Days of Heaven, The New World). Her narration is epic, a little philosophical, questioning and almost biblical in its seriousness and mythic weight (The New World, The Thin Red Line). Wagner's Das Rheingold rises inexorably to a rapturous peak as the spot advances (The New World). Some of the images recall classic Americana (Badlands).

In fact, what much of the (admittedly sublime) imagery reminds me of is David Gordon Green's George Washington, a film produced by Malick and very much in the Malick style. It makes me wonder why Hillcoat couldn't have transformed his recent Red Dead Redemption short film into a Malick tribute. I\d watch that..Somebody should sue...

The rest of the "Go Forth" Levis adverts are similarly high in quality and visual beauty. They both utilise Walt Whitman's poetry to great effect, and push their brand in a relatively low-key fashion. The first is directed by Cary Fukunaga:

And the second by M Blash:

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