Few would call Wim Wenders, the auteur behind Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club, and last year’s documentary Pina, a “commercial” director. Yet he has, now and again, put in time as a director of commercials — advertisements, that is, for beer, food, and cameras. His personal hymn to Leica’s craftsmanship aside (“As a boy,” he narrates, “I looked at my father’s Leica like a sacred object”), these spots don’t immediately betray the identity of the man at the helm. Even if you’ve seen many of Wenders’ feature films, you might not guess that he made these commercials if you just happened upon them; you would, though, feel their difference in sensibility from the ads surrounding them. The Stella Artois clip above includes several attention-drawing television tropes like a picturesque European coast, fast cars and motorcycles, vintage musical instruments, alcohol, and femininity, but it approaches them in a nonstandard way — one that, consequentially, actually stands a chance of drawing your attention.
“There’s a certain amount of objects that men like a lot,” says Wenders in a short documentary on the making of the commercial, “and they like them so much that they give them their girlfriends’ names.” We see first a motorcycle named Sophie, then a convertible named Victoria, then a guitar named Valerie, then a beer — Stella. We never see any actual women, or, for that matter, any men; just places and things. Wenders imbues the sequence with humanity through the camera’s gaze, and the behind-the-scenes footage shows it as no easy task, requiring take after precisely lit take shot with cameras mounted on elaborate mechanical arms that look more expensive than the treasured objects themselves. (It also requires the director to issue instructions in no fewer than three languages, though I understand that as business as usual on a Wenders set.) For an entirely different perspective on beer, watch his spot for Carling that involves bicycling over a waterfall. For a more epic take on the relationship between mankind and machinery, watch what he put together for food conglomerate Barilla’s 125th anniversary.