Cigarette Commercials from David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and Jean Luc Godard

Even the great­est film­mak­ers out there some­times need to pay the bills.

In the 1990s, Swiss tobac­co com­pa­ny F. J. Bur­rus hired name brand art house direc­tors to make com­mer­cials for their Parisi­enne brand of cig­a­rettes. The com­pa­ny gave free rein to the film­mak­ers both in terms of con­tent and approach. And the tal­ent they man­aged to attract is aston­ish­ing: David Lynch, the Coen Broth­ers, Emir Kus­turi­ca, Roman Polan­s­ki and, most puz­zling­ly, Jean-Luc Godard.

Wait a sec­ond, you might say. Wasn’t Godard an avowed Maoist at one point in his life? Wasn’t he one of the most con­sis­tent­ly anti-bour­geois, anti-cap­i­tal­ist fig­ures in film­dom? Yes. And he also did cig­a­rette com­mer­cials. He did a few for Nike too.

You can see his ad for Parisi­enne above. Typ­i­cal with late peri­od Godard, the com­mer­cial is both lit­er­ary, polit­i­cal and will­ful­ly dif­fi­cult. Cred­it­ed to both Godard and his long time cre­ative and roman­tic part­ner Anne-Marie Miéville, the com­mer­cial fea­tures a skate­board­er slalom­ing between large box­es of cig­a­rettes, some guy in bare feet shuf­fling through a floor lit­tered with Parisi­enne pack­ages and a well-to-do woman read­ing a nov­el called Parisi­enne Peo­ple. On the sound­track, Godard reads a quote from Racine. It’s prob­a­bly noth­ing that Don Drap­er would have been hap­py with, but Bur­rus was pleased.

Ads by oth­er film­mak­ers sim­i­lar­ly show off their quirks and obses­sions. The Coen broth­ers’ com­mer­cial, for instance, looks less like an advert than a scene from one of their movies. A dandy smok­ing a cig from a hold­er is deeply moved by a sweaty vaude­ville per­for­mance. When it ends, he whis­pers, “Again.” It’s a res­o­lu­tion that rais­es as many ques­tions as it answers. It’s a whole short sto­ry in 30 sec­onds.

Emir Kusturica’s ad is packed with magi­cians, acro­bats, Balkan pas­tiche and gor­geous ingénues in black. Just like his movies. Side note: Kus­turi­ca has a suc­cess­ful side career play­ing in a band called The No Smok­ing Orches­tra.

Roman Polanski’s com­mer­cial is a jokey tale about a vam­pire that has an unset­tling­ly under­cur­rent of men­ace and sex­u­al vio­lence. Just like his movies.

And David Lynch’s ad plays out like a night­mare from some­one who fell asleep read­ing a Wal­ter Mosley nov­el.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ing­mar Bergman’s Soap Com­mer­cials Wash Away the Exis­ten­tial Despair

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

Wes Anderson’s New Com­mer­cials Sell the Hyundai Azera

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.


by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.