The World's Best Sellers | Chicago Reader

The World's Best Sellers

A rather amusing look at what makes commercials tick, this 1996 film essay by German documentarian Hermann Vaske also tries to honor the business and craft of product selling through discussions with some of its key practitioners. Among those interviewed are Hollywood movie directors who got their start in advertising (Tony Scott, Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson) and those who make commercials between film projects for the money (Spike Lee, Mike Figgis, Jon Amiel). What they say doesn't add much to the familiar debates about style versus content and art versus commerce; the ad makers regard themselves as visual entertainers and seem far more engaged when demonstrating the nuts and bolts of successful ad campaigns (a few of them exhibit the same smug cynicism toward the masses as the ad executives who hire them). It doesn't help that Vaske is a fawning interviewer, prone to heaping praise on the celebrities he's corraled, or that we're bombarded with irrelevant sound bites from them and anonymous talking heads representing the industry (though Dennis Hopper's introductions are a hoot, perhaps unintentionally). Some of the discussions threaten to become interesting, but Vaske seems afraid of sustained seriousness. Not surprisingly, it's the commercials themselves—and Vaske has chosen some of the best—that succinctly demonstrate the craftiness of storytellers with an eye on your wallet.

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