DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Art and Copy

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Art and Copy

Art and Copy (2009) dir. Doug Pray


By Alan Bacchus

There's a feeling of desperation to the DVD release of Art and Copy. I was in Sundance when it premiered, with a certain degree of hype, no less. Nowhere, that I can recall in the then infinitesimal marketing push was a comparison to Mad Men made.In general, it didn't premiere as well as predicted and so a year later suddenly the DVD cover features a distinctly Saul Bass-esque cover art with the quote "The Real Mad Men." I wonder if the admen in this film would have approved of this campaign? I doubt it, because the people Doug Pray has assembled to provide discourse on the nebulous and nefarious advertising business seem to be producing high art.

It's part of the foul stench of self-congratulation that plagues this film. So much so, from beginning to end, I couldn't figure out what this movie was actually about. It's certainly not about the characters, a group of intellectually superior millionaires patting themselves on the back for making their clients a lot of money. Granted, there's been some great art produced in their advertising business.

Indeed, the mad men (and women) of this film do shed some light on how memorable campaigns such as "Got Milk" were born, but there's so much distance from the nuts and bolts of these stories that we don't really learn much. The marketing of Tommy Hilfiger and the Nike "Just Do It" slogan are also great stories, but Pray only grazes the surface with a few sound bites and trivial titbits of information from his subjects. But certainly not enough to truly understand the effect marketing has on our culture, or what kind of brainpower it takes to get people to move one way when they're pointed in the other direction.

Rarely does anyone ever mention how many hamburgers or Volkswagens were sold because of their campaigns, as if these people have forgotten that advertising is about selling people shit, and mostly shit that they don't need. As such, 'Art and Copy' is just too esoteric and tonally oblique for anyone outside the advertising business itself to truly appreciate.

1 comment :

Michael said...

I am very surprised because it seems like I am the only person who actually liked this documentary. Documentaries can introduce us to people, places and things we wouldn’t normally get the chance to experience. One thing I really like documentaries to do is to make us look at something very familiar in a totally new light.
Take advertising for example, I would hazard to guess that most Americans feel they are bombarded by it way too much advertising, but the documentary Art & Copy, made by a very good filmmaker Doug Pray (Surfside) manages something that almost seems impossible, he makes the world of advertising seem like the most creative, exciting and challenging place in the world.
From showing us the simple genius of the “Got Milk?” campaign, to such famous single broadcast only spots like the 1984 Macintosh computer commercial and Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” spot to the “Where’s The Beef?”, campaign Art & Copy makes a compelling argument that great advertising is as much a product of human creativity as great music or great writing.
I was taken down a very nostalgic road watching some of the commercials of my youth like Alka-Seltzers’ “Try It You’ll Like It!” which made me smile to myself and caused me to remember those years fondly. Art & Copy is conventional in style, but it is still extremely well made.