The Coen Brothers Make a TV Commercial — Ridiculing “Clean Coal”

When famous movie direc­tors shoot tele­vi­sion spots, they usu­al­ly focus on the mer­its of a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct: Wim Wen­ders and Stel­la Artois, Wes Ander­son and the Hyundai Azera, Jean-Luc Godard and Schick after­shave. Above, you’ll see one by Joel and Ethan Coen meant not to endorse but to oppose. Premised on the notion that the name “clean coal” masks a not-espe­cial­ly-clean tech­nol­o­gy, “Clean Coal Clean” dish­es it out against the coal indus­try — “the most trust­ed name in coal” — with a satir­i­cal pas­tiche of house­hold clean­ing spray com­mer­cials. I’ll say this: if any pair of film­mak­ers can get me to watch a video about the pol­i­tics of coal, the guys behind Rais­ing Ari­zona, Bar­ton Fink, and A Seri­ous Man can. The clip just below offers a look into the pro­duc­tion of anoth­er “Clean Coal Clean” par­o­dy com­mer­cial, and a rare chance to see the Coen broth­ers at work.

Mar­la Dick­er­son in the Los Ange­les Times pro­vides back­ground on this “lat­est sal­vo in the media bat­tle between the coal indus­try and envi­ron­men­tal­ists over the role that car­bon fuels should play in the Unit­ed States’ ener­gy future.” Dick­er­son quotes a coal spokesman on how the “the indus­try spent more than $50 bil­lion since the 1970s installing pol­lu­tion-con­trol equip­ment and design­ing plants that are more effi­cient.” She also lays out the envi­ron­men­tal­ists’ argu­ment: “the coal indus­try’s mar­ket­ing cam­paign has left Amer­i­cans with the impres­sion that such ‘clean coal” tech­nol­o­gy already exists. Such a break­through has yet to be devel­oped,” she quotes the Sier­ra Cub’s coal cam­paign direc­tor as say­ing, “and may nev­er be at a cost that makes eco­nom­ic sense.” Of course, not even a genius auteur — not even two of them — can make up your mind on this issue. But with these spots, the Coen broth­ers and the Alliance for Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion reit­er­ate an invalu­able point: whether about house­hold clean­ers or ener­gy sources, nev­er believe the hype.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Wim Wen­ders Cre­ates Ads to Sell Beer (Stel­la Artois), Pas­ta (Bar­il­la), and More Beer (Car­ling)

Wes Anderson’s New Com­mer­cials Sell the Hyundai Azera

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Com­mer­cial for Schick

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

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