Wes Anderson’s New Commercials Sell the Hyundai Azera

Many high-pro­file fea­ture film­mak­ers occa­sion­al­ly direct com­mer­cials (find spots by Felli­ni, Bergman, and David Lynch below), but few put their own stamp on them quite so bold­ly as Wes Ander­son does. Each of his for­ays into adver­tise­ment, mar­ket­ing, shilling, pro­pa­gan­diz­ing, cin­e­ma by oth­er means — call it what­ev­er you like — bears the mark of a man who sees real­i­ty in his own way, regard­less of con­text. Hence his fans’ ten­den­cy to receive and pass around his lat­est tele­vi­sion spots with almost the same urgency they would a trail­er for one of his “real movies.” Whether tak­ing on as his sub­ject Bel­gian beer or wide-range call­ing plans or Japan­ese cell­phones or self-satire by way of Amer­i­can Express, Wes Ander­son remains Wes Ander­son down to the last detail. The word “integri­ty,” I real­ize, tends to be reserved specif­i­cal­ly for artists who don’t do com­mer­cials. But if Ander­son­’s unwa­ver­ing respect for his own fas­ci­na­tions and aes­thet­ic impuls­es in every project he works on does­n’t count as integri­ty, what does?

Now that the Hyundai Motor Com­pa­ny has designed a fifth gen­er­a­tion of its Azera mod­el, they’ve engaged Ander­son to help get the word out. I can’t pre­tend to know what spe­cif­ic requests the cor­po­ra­tion made of the film­mak­er, but it would­n’t sur­prise me if they issued only two imper­a­tives: “Tell peo­ple the car’s qui­et, and tell peo­ple they can talk to it.” In “Mod­ern Life” (the first video above), a crum­pling, emas­cu­lat­ing­ly aproned hus­band tries des­per­ate­ly to pre­pare din­ner while keep­ing his anachro­nis­ti­cal­ly large brood under con­trol. As the wife gives him cook­ing instruc­tions and a descrip­tion of the traf­fic jam all around her, we fol­low a stray kid out to the dri­ve­way where — what have we here! — the lady of the house reclines in the beige leather of her Azera, parked not amidst free­way grid­lock but less than a dozen feet from the door. “Talk to My Car” presents a series of increas­ing­ly less fan­tas­ti­cal sce­nar­ios of fam­i­ly auto­mo­bile voice-con­trol, the first in a Chit­ty Chit­ty Bang Bang-style crop-dust­ing con­vert­ible; the sec­ond in an amphibi­ous yel­low sedan, com­plete with periscope; the third in a cross between the Bat­mo­bile and Knight Rid­er’s K.I.T.T., which Dad com­mands to “acti­vate rear incen­di­ary devices”; the fourth in a present-day Azera on its way to a Cos­ta Mesa Ital­ian joint.

These spots, espe­cial­ly the first, show­case a num­ber of clas­si­cal­ly Ander­son­ian qual­i­ties. Enthu­si­asts of his pic­tures’ metic­u­lous pro­duc­tion design — as near­ly every enthu­si­ast of his pic­tures must be — will find plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to pause the video and mar­vel at the ele­ments of the belea­guered father’s house: the deep red oven knobs; the cor­ner drum set; the vin­tage toy robots tucked here and there; the minia­ture heli­copter; each kid’s elab­o­rate, inex­plic­a­ble cos­tume; the cam­era move­ment straight through the front wall, reveal­ing the house­’s the­atri­cal “cut­away” con­struc­tion. The strangest ele­ment proves, iron­i­cal­ly, to be the car itself. In Rush­more, Bill Mur­ray dri­ves a Bent­ley; in The Roy­al Tenen­baums, Owen Wil­son dri­ves an Austin-Healey. What self-respect­ing Wes Ander­son char­ac­ter would be caught dead in this year’s sen­si­ble, gray, Blue­tooth-enabled four-door, no mat­ter how many lux­u­ry-car fea­tures it brings into its afford­able class? So many of us long to live in Wes Ander­son­’s world, but the Hyundai Azera seems a high­ly unsuit­able vehi­cle to take us there. You could prob­a­bly dri­ve it to a show­ing of Moon­rise King­dom, though. H/T Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

1950s Soap Com­mer­cials by Ing­mar Bergman

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (3)
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  • zed says:

    blah blah blah, no sell out, blah blah blah… did you even look at that amer­i­can express com­mer­cial? that’s a total sell out. does he need the mon­ey that bad? he did­n’t do it out of artis­tic integri­ty that’s for sure. he’s total­ly com­pro­mised and now his movies look to me like he’s sell­ing a brand rather than real­is­ing an inter­est­ing vision.

  • McBride says:

    only the wes ander­son-style could have made that com­mer­cial work. Wes Ander­son is prob­a­bly the most ref­er­enced direc­tor in tv com­mer­cial pitch­es ANYWAY. At least this is a real one.

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