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BMW Films

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When reading an article about brand advertising and culture coming together in this week’s issue of Die Zeit, I was reminded of BMW films, an advertisement project that BMW did a few years back and which I came across when looking for more films by Wong Kar Wai.

Shot from Wong Kar  Wai's film in the series

If you didn’t run across it yet, it’s well worth having a look. Basically BMW seem to have given popular but not exactly mainstream directors a bunch of money to use and destroy some of their cars. Well, I guess it wasn’t exactly such a free project, instead there’s the same ‘driver’ in each of the films who drives the BMWs to get someone from one place to another. But it looks like each of the directors could stick to their own style when making their short film of less than ten minutes.

Shot from Wong Kar  Wai's film in the series

Naturally, the first film from the series was Wong Kar Wai’s, the third one, going by the name The Follow. The plot is dead simple: The driver guy is told to observe some director’s wife, doesn’t like what he sees and says he lost her because of that. While the cars are seen a lot in the film, there is not a lot of ‘car action’ happening. Instead, Wong Kar Wai style, the driver’s off-screen voice tells us about how to follow people – and mostly does just the opposite of what he’s saying.

Shot from Wong Kar Wai's film in the series

And further down the Wong Kar Wai road it’s also about two people who are connected (by the observation job) but between which there is no actual contact. The same kind of caring from a distance that you see in Wong Kar Wai’s other films.

Shot from Wong Kar Wai's film in the series

It’s quite cool and you might even forget that it’s about cars for a while, although I thought the driver’s rambling might be going a bit too far. He may be a good driver. But he’s a driver and not a philosopher or something. Other cool things include the use of colour, the cinematic aspect ratio, and Forest Whitaker doing a rather good job playing a role that sucks. All of that in an eigth of an hour without any hurry.

Shot from Ang Lee's film in the series

While I’m at it, let me mention some of the other films as well. You can probably just go and watch all of them, but I also ended up quite liking Ang Lee’s Chosen which at first looks like it’s just going to be a lame car chase job but ends up having rather cool floatingly dancing cars there. And a suprisingly cool ending as well.

Shot of Guy Ritchies's film in the series

The film Star, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Madonna as a bitchy pop star might be the funniest in the series. Let’s just say that she’s asking for a shaky ride and gets it… And once you’ve seen that you also have to see Tony Scott’s Beat the Devil which is equally funny and musical, featuring James Brown himself as himself and Gary Oldman as the devil having a race down the strip in Las Vegas. Cool cuts in there. And for the young people with Marilyn Manson as well.

Shot from Tony Scott's film in the series

But there are more ‘serious’ films as well. Such as Joe Carnahan’s (never heard his name before) Ticker which is surprisingly cool and good at not focusing on the car too much (although I wouldn’t have used a convertible for that kind of job…) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Powder Keg which is about the attempt to rescue a war journalist.

Shot from Alejandro González Iñárritu's film in the series.

P.S. While VLC is really quite good at playing videos as these which are in strange AVI or WMV formats, it’s not exactly easy to use it to make screenshots of the films on my (slow) computer… there’s quite a delay before the shot is taken or the film is actually paused. And useful reversing isn’t possible either.

July 22, 2005, 1:37

Tagged as ad, alejandro gonzález iñárritu, ang lee, bmw, film, forest whitaker, guy ritchie, madonne, tony scott, wong kar wai.


Comment by Brian: User icon

Each of the BMW Flims are little gems in which mood fits subject. They use to show them here before ‘regular’ movies. But they had to stop, as the short films were so superior to the movies people paid to see, the audience got upset.

December 6, 2005, 5:35

Comment by s.kao: User icon

i’ve just seen this during class, and i wonder if its real madonna?

February 26, 2008, 19:25

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