30 June 2005

It'd be better if it were a martini, though...

I saw this (QT, sound) over at MeFi, and it's actually really well done. I never thought I'd see an advertisement that was a parody of Luis Bunuel.

And what a parody it is; they didn't just go for a simple look-and-feel; there's a lot of explicit references. I don't think this is complete, but this is what I caught on my second viewing, shot by shot (perhaps some spoilers if you haven't seen these films):
1. Establishing shot -- sort of reminds me of Diary of a Chambermaid or the outside of the mansion in L'Age D'Or (particularly the scene where the groundskeeper shoots his son).
2. The three men sitting around the barrel look kind of like the hermits in L'Age D'Or.
3. The man who turns into a violin with his clothes on the back of the chair is a double threat: The man disappearing and having his clothing left is a reference to a scene in L'Age D'or where people, well, disappear leaving only their clothing. The violin shows up in pretty much every Bunuel film -- he hated Violins, stemming from his childhood when he was forced to learn how to play the instrument against his will. They typically show up in indignity; in L'Age D'Or a man walks down the street kicking a violin and stomping it to bits; in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of the characters insists on sitting away from the string quartet as she cannot stand to look at them -- that's two, just off the top of my head.
4. The man behind the bush is a reference to the Conductor looking for the Woman in L'Age D'Or; it's also similar to the outdoor scene in Un Chien andalou near the end.
5. I'm pretty sure the egg is a reference to something, but I'm completely blanking. However, the ants crawling from it is a reference to the famous Ants In The Palms scene of Un Chien andalou (One of many visual puns in Bunuel's work that I can't help myself from explaining: In French, the phrase "Ants In The Palms" means approximately the same as "Itchy Trigger Finger" in English -- basically, that you want to kill someone; in "Ants in the Palms", it's an itch that can be only scratched by grasping the hilt of a dagger and stabbing someone with it; similarly, an itchy trigger finger can only be sated by pulling the trigger on a gun (though there are some differences too; often times, "itchy trigger finger" implies someone who is merely careless or overly excitable with a gun; someone who'd fire 10 shots when 1 would do -- though, having an itchy trigger finger can also be used as a threat (viz. tons of bad action movies)). Hence, the scene in Un Chien andalou is showing that the Man wants to murder, which gibes with what Bunuel and Dali always said about the film, that it was a "call to murder". By the way, I'm not kidding about loving to explain this -- I've even made a short film on the same concept of explaining that one shot.) Also, since Bunuel had an incredible interest in insects (he flirted with being an entomologist), they showed up all over the place in his films -- the piano-torture scene in Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie for example.
6. The cloud going across the moon is a direct reference to the infamous prologue of Un Chien andalou, where it is meant to trick the viewer into thinking it's merely symbolizing the imminent eye-slitting... which, of course, takes place immediately after the shot. It's a nice place of subverting cinematic expectations -- you're expecting (well, not anymore; the scene is so famous you're expecting it) that the film-maker is not going to actually show the gore, and merely show a stand-in. By showing the moon, Bunuel lulls you into thinking that you've just seen the stand-in and are "safe", then he shows you the gore anyway; this also has the neat side-effect of showing the viewer that there isn't any particular symbolism in the film -- he and Dali threw out a bunch of stuff from the treatment, anything that could be seen as having a point or making sense or being a symbol. (A few still snuck in, though, like the ants.)
7. I'm pretty sure the shot with the woman is a reference to L'Age D'Or, near the beginning when the woman is shown with the bandaged hand (another visual pun, "bandee", in French, means both "bandage" and is a euphemism for female masturbation; combined with the scene before which, ahem, more strongly suggested female masturbation pretty much confirms "yeah, that's what I'm gettin' at".). At least this is what the scene reminds me of; I'm just going off the top of my head here, and not looking things up -- forgive me any errors!
8. I believe the empty chairs falling over is a reference to L'Age D'Or as well, though I'm blanking on what exactly.
9. The ostrich is a reference to The Phantom of Liberty as well as Bunuel's love of Animals in Human Social Situations, like the bull in L'Age D'Or, the bear in The Exterminating Angel, the dead donkeys in Un Chien andalou, and quite a few others.
10. The beer rolling across the ground is very similar to the dream sequence in The Exterminiating Angel with the disembodied hand sliding around, being just sort of generally malevolent looking.
11. I think the beer turning into an apple is a reference to the Sea Urchin scene in Un Chien andalou, though it might be something else. I'm trying to think of other examples of apples in Bunuel films, but I'm drawing a blank. It could just be a general surrealist reference, though, perhaps a shout-out to Rene Magritte who most definitely was an Apple Fan.
12. I don't think it's a reference to anything Bunuel-wise, but it's pretty cool that the soundtrack is by Clara Rockmore, virtuosa of the theremin.

Anyway, though -- I think I hit at least most of the Bunuel references; as I said I was going just off the top of my head, so I hope I didn't get anything too awfully wrong. There were apparently some F.W. Murnau references in there, too, but unfortunately, I'm not nearly as familiar with his work as I am Bunuel's, so I wasn't able to really call those out, either. Also, from the MeFi thread, apparently Archive.org has Un Chien andalou available in their archives, so if you haven't seen it, definitely check it out.

Current Mood: Impressed


Blogger Lee H. said...

They definitely get bonus points for nailing the look, and HUGE NEGATIVE KARMA for robbing Luis Bunuel's dreams for an advertisement.

I think sometimes that people who work for these ad agencies think they're doing culture a favor by ripping off their heroes, but unfortunately, they're not.

9:39 PM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Yeah, I am a little torn on the mercinary aspect of it, but I was still pretty impressed at how well they did. When I saw the blurb that said it was in the style of Bunuel, I was expecting, basically "WHOA HERE'S SOME WACKY SHIT IN BLACK AND WHITE OMG!1/1/1", so it was pretty surprising when it turned out they knew their stuff.

The one cool thing about it, though, is if you cut off the last bit (which is lame, anyway -- it's the only bit that makes you go "Oh, maybe they don't get it..."), you wouldn't know it was a beer ad or even for which beer (are there any logo shots of the beer label? I was too busy looking at the shots and the Bunuel stuff that I didn't even notice, honestly. But yeah, I dunno, everything else in it gets decent enough props from me, even though "refreshingly elephants" or whatever almost squanders the goodwill generated by the spot.

Ah well, apparently it's only going to show up in Landmark Theaters anyway, so it's probably not going to be many folks' first/only exposure to Bunuel -- I think most of the folks who go to Landmarks tend to know Bunuel, at least somewhat, anyway. I guess I just saw it as more of a tribute than a ripoff, even though it's unfortunate that tribute was used to sell beer.

It is one of the few commericals I've actually been entertained by, though. (One of the only others I can think of is Spike Jonze's spot for... Adidas? Nike? Somethin', with the guy running while the dreamy song by the lady from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singing (which was especially neat, since I don't typically care much for YYY). That was a pretty cool spot. It's sad, though, that it seems that the only commercially viable short films anymore are, um, commercials. (Or music videos, which can be argued to be commercials as well...)

9:47 PM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

I AM glad it's playing in theaters and not on TV (even though I hate ads in theaters- but that's a whole different discussion! :D )

And BTW, your shot breakdown was damn impressive! I meant to mention that... I knew you were a Bunuel fan, but wow.

10:44 AM, July 01, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Yeah -- I'm kind of torn on that, too, especially since it IS in landmark theaters, which were typically the last bastion of Just Trailers. At least, AFAIK, that's the only ad they show, and they're somewhat good (although they wrap the films (the only other one I saw was kind of amusing, too, but much more in this THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT!!! vein; a guy has a three-legged tiny dog, so he orders a beer and gives the dog the bottle for the fourth leg) in a really stupid thing about a flower shop that I don't even hardly remember.... I think it's the lame thing of "Hello, because I am too stupid to realize that products like this are on sale in stores for like 2 bucks, I will trade you my entire inventory for one of your products" -- which I think is impossible to make good.

Hopefully this won't signal Landmark going to a All-Sortsa-Ads-Thing, though. (When I saw Palindromes at one of theirs, they showed one of the Stella Ads (maybe the dog one, I don't know) and this really awful short film; I was sort of torn on that, too -- I miss that they don't show shorts in theaters anymore, but, jeeeeezum crow that one was hideous.

Also, thanks! I inexplicably enjoy doing tht sort of thing, even though it's probably kinda overkill..8)

2:00 PM, July 01, 2005  

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