Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Eaton's March Big Sale, the Pepsi Taste Patrol, and Other Television Commercials of Phillip Borsos

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Eaton's March Big Sale, the Pepsi Taste Patrol, and Other Television Commercials of Phillip Borsos

Article excerpt

Résumé: Mieux connu pour son long métrage de fiction The Grey Fox et ses documentaires Cooperage et Spartree, Phillip Borsos a aussi réalisé des publicités télévisuelles. En 1978, alors qu'il venait de fonder sa propre compagnie de production à Vancouver, il a complété plusieurs spots publicitaires locaux, et en 1989, après avoir réalisé quatre longs métrages, il fut le premier « cinéaste de renom » engagé par Partners' Film Company de Toronto pour produire des publicités. Cet article situe les publicités de Borsos et l'industrie publicitaire en général aux confluents de pratiques régionales, nationales et internationales. L'auteur offre ainsi une analyse qui tient compte des modes de production et de dissémination propres à la publicité télévisuelle canadienne. Il examine aussi certaines des productions dans un contexte historique pertinent.

One of the first films Phillip Borsos produced and released was a mock commercial. Cadillac (Optional, at Extra Cost) (Canada, 1974) featured Vancouver radio and television personality Bill Reiter on camera and in voice-over as a fasttalking, loud-jacket-and-white-necktie-wearing huckster pitching a luxury car, inter-cut with shots of and from a vintage 1954 Cadillac driving around rural settings and, finally, across a bridge in the rain. It was fundamentally a calling card, but the characteristically ambitious and confident Borsos tried aggressively to market the four-minute film. Although one of Borsos's least known films, made not only years before The Grey Fox (Canada, 1982), but also prior to the documentaries that brought him three Canadian Film Awards in five years and considerable professional attention, for years it remained in circulation and in filmographies. It was at least in the public record, even if it might not have been as widely seen as the other films that were laying a foundation for Borsos's reputation.

Even more obscure among the turns of his career, both as he was starting his career as a professional filmmaker and a decade later, as he was embroiled in completing the costly and stressful Bethune: The Making of a Hero {Canada/China/France, 1990), Borsos turned to directing actual television commercials. To some extent historical curiosities in themselves, they also constitute significant undertakings at distinctive stages in this filmmaker's career, as well as his contributions to a significant and ubiquitous yet generally overlooked portion of film and television production. Moreover, where Borsos's commercials started modest and local, in the latter stages they assumed national and international dimensions consistent with his career as a director of feature films.

Although some top-flight feature filmmakers have directed a commercial from time to time, and some directors have established credentials in advertising before making feature films their vocation, their ads have rarely attracted much attention among critical analysts. Biographers and interview-based accounts refer to the television spots that Federico Fellini made in 1984 and 1992, for example, but either anecdotally or with little to no detail.1 In a memoir, Ingmar Bergman has recalled the nine theatrical commercials for Bris deodorant soap that he wrote and directed in 1951, and they have similarly attracted some chroniclers' attention and have recently been revived into public view.2 They appear to have been given detailed analytic attention only once, however, in an article appearing in a special edition of the Swedish magazine Chaplin, in which Maaret Koskinen identifies the thematic links with his feature films in this suite of "Bergmaniana in miniature."' Although he quite thoroughly documents the commercials Denys Arcand has directed since 1983, biographer Real La Rochelle has little to say about them-significantly less than Arcand himself, in a 1987 talk, "Filmmakers and Advertising," the text of which La Rochelle includes as an appendix.4 Ridley Scott, one of the most prominent directors of mainstream theatrical films from the 1980s on, also has had a career directing advertising spots, including three of the one hundred best commercials in the estimation of a 1999 survey of television advertising. …

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