Monday, April 16, 2012

DIY Double Feature: ART & COPY and PUTNEY SWOPE

Here's how you do it:  First watch ART & COPY (2009).  And then when you find yourself buying what they're selling, find yourself thinking that advertising is about more than creating demand, quickly switch over to PUTNEY SWOPE (1969) to be reminded that those jive ass dudes don't got no brains anyhow.  Shiiiiit.

That last part, that part in italics, I can say that, because the ever proper Barbara Billingsley said it in AIRPLANE! I don't think I could get away with using the words of anyone in PUTNEY SWOPE, so that'll have to do.

>> about 1 minute into clip

ART & COPY is a documentary about the ad industry, including stuff from the 60s to right about now.   In the world of ART & COPY, advertising is a profound and magical thing that has the power to change lives.  (Something I don't think anyone would argue.  The question is whether the changes are for the better).  (At least more often than not).  The film makes attempts to keep the industry grounded, they even spend some time with the folks who actually paste up billboards for a living, but  mostly they seem to be polishing up the notion that advertising is a glamour industry.  The focus is on the higher-end, thought-leader agencies that "don't just take their clients money and do what they're told," but instead bring the full-force of their creativity to the table.  Everyone in the film seems to agree that when that is done, it elevates the entire client-agency-consumer transaction, which can lead to art, enlightenment, liberation, and freedom.  (Pfft).

I will say, there are some gems in there, interview-wise.  This one revived a dream I have to spend an afternoon with George Lois.  I kind of hate a lot of what he says, but I also kind of love him.  I love his clarity and pragmatism and energy.  It's admirable, if only it had been directed elsewhere.  Which is my hang-up with advertising...  so many smart, talented people spending their life-energy one 30 second spots at a time.  Brings to mind "Howl".  Kind of.  Greatest minds of a few generations gone to the creation of advertising.  Yet they don't think it's madness.  They think it's a sweet and hip gig.

On that note, PUTNEY SWOPE.

PUTNEY SWOPE is the anti-ART & COPY.  It's a satire written and directed by Robert Downey Sr.  And, it is something else.  The set-up is that the the head of the advertising board for the agency that bears his name drops dead on the conference room table.  While the body is still warm (and still on the table), the other board members elect a new head - they can't vote for themselves, and so they all vote for the token black man, thinking that no one else will.  Putney Swope takes over, changes the name of the agency to Truth & Soul, pledges to no longer make ads for cigarettes, liquor or war toys, insists the white delivery boys use the service elevator, and proceeds to subvert (and reinforce) a whole lot of stereotypes about advertising, movies, big business and/or race.  But it's so much more than that.  See it, then we'll talk.

Released: 2009
Director: Doug Pray
Leads: Lee Clow, Dan Wieden, David Kennedy, Phyllis K. Robinson, Hal Riney, George Lois, Rich Silverstein, Jeff Goodby, Mary Wells, Cliff Freeman. Jim Durfee

Released: 1969
Director: Robert Downey Sr.
Leads: Arnold Johnson, Joe Madden, Antonio Fargas, Allen Garfield
Writer: Robert Downey, Sr.