Raising Arizona; The Big Lebowski; O Brother, Where Art Thou? — Joel and Ethan Coen have made more than a few movies not just widely beloved, but also widely thought of as eccentric. One thus wouldn't imagine their sensibility translating well to advertising, that means of occasional support for many an uncompromising auteur. But just as the Coen brothers have brought Hollywood at least partially over to their way of creating, they've also, on several occasions, bent the form of the commercial to their advantage.
Take the Coen brothers' Parisienne cigarette commercial at the top, previously featured here on Open Culture (alongside David Lynch, Emir Kusturica, Roman Polanski and, Jean-Luc Godard's work for the same apparently auteur-loving brand). But if they felt guilty about thus encouraging the befouling of the air, they surely cleared their own consciences with the satirical spot about "clean coal" just above. And in the slightly more straightforward Gap ad below, they used the mainstream-yet-alternative icons Christina Ricci and Dennis Hopper:
And even if you keep up with the Coen brothers' short film work, you may never have seen the spot below, which originally aired during the 2002 Super Bowl. Working for H&R Block, they use perhaps the least promising setting imaginable, a slow-moving tax law lecture, to create a dystopian vision not a million miles from the one Ridley Scott used to introduce the Apple Macintosh eighteen Super Bowls before.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.