As the world turned the corner into the new millennium, Tony Scott found himself in-between feature films. During the year 2000, he directed (to my knowledge) three commercials:
BARCLAYS BANK: “BIG”
The first spot, from banking giant Barclays, finds Scott directing Anthony Hopkins as a satirical, exaggerated version of himself. In a spot appropriate for a large banking conglomerate, the theme of the spot is “Big”. Hopkins addresses the camera directly, expounding upon his affinity for all things “big”. He’s seen in his opulent mansion, then as he’s driven in a luxury towncar down the tony streets of Beverly Hills.
Knowing what’s happened to the global economy as a direct result of Big Banking’s actions in the last five years, this spot would be incredibly tone-deaf if it were to come out today. It’s laughable now to buy into the idea that huge banking conglomerates are actually good for us.
But I digress. Getting back to the craft elements of the spot, Scott frames for the 4:3 television-standard aspect ratio. He imbues the image with a more conservative aesthetic that’s still recognizably his: high contrast, with its desaturated colors tint-ing slightly towards the cold green end of the spectrum. His camerawork is steady and locked-down, save for a few strategic dolly shots.
A pulsing, cinematic score gives the spot a softly-buzzing energy that supports the tone. Stylistically speaking, it’s an effective and well-constructed ad. Too bad it’s an ad promoting an organization run by a bunch of assholes.
BARCLAYS BANK: “BIG” is available in its entirety on Youtube, via the embed above.
TELECOM ITALIA: “BRANDO”
In 2000, Telecom Italia created a campaign promoting its services via the appearance of a small armada of Hollywood heavyweights. Scott directed two of these spots, the first of which was “BRANDO”.
In the spot, Marlon Brando (in what’s probably one of his last filmed appearances ever) sits on top of a huge canyon, ruminating on how quickly technology has upended the world he’s lived in for so long, and how it might be of benefit to his legacy.
The spot allows for Scott to essentially go crazy with his signature style. The footage is edited heavily, almost within inches of its life. We cut from sweeping helicopter-bound vista shots to extreme close-ups of Brando’s craggy, weathered face within milliseconds of each other. The image is super saturated in an almost duo-tone fashion, with shadows running unnaturally blue. There’s also black and white flash frames accompanied by text that punctuates Brando’s dialogue. Exposure slides up and down with reckless abandon, as if it were a strobe light. Part of me thinks that even Brando himself couldn’t have stomached this rambling, incoherent mess.
It’s more of a brand awareness spot than actively advertising a service or product. It’s an instance of Scott’s enthusiasm for style trumping the substance. Personally, I think it does a great disservice to a figure that’s as towering as Brando. Scott should’ve toned down his bombastic style and let Brando’s words speak for themselves.
TELECOM ITALIA: “WOODY ALLEN”
Scott’s other ad for Telecom Italia starred Woody Allen doing what he does best: paranoid rants. Thankfully, Scott’s style is incredibly restrained here. He chooses to ape the style of his subject, taking full advantage of Allen’s mannerisms to create a quirky, wonderful spot.
With WOODY ALLEN, Scott eschews his personal style and goes for an even-colored, low-contrast visual palette. He shoots from overhead and street-level, making effective use of zooms and tracking shots.
The framing is reserved, showing Allen in full for most of the spot. The quick cutting is the only element that tips us off to Scott’s involvement.
Unlike BRANDO, this is a fantastic ad that melds the subject and message together quite well. It’s a comedic take on the potential neuroses that stem from an expanded life expectancy that only a man like Allen can deliver. The light-hearted, SEINFELD-esque music over the visuals is the icing on the cake.
TELECOM ITALIA: “WOODY ALLEN” is currently available on Youtube via the embed above.