Monday, 14 June 2010

The art of commerce

Commerce: there's a whole area of study for the splits and joins between "art" (and tradition) and "commerce" (and modernity) in Japan. OK, the lines are always blurred everywhere, and there have to be the inverted commas. Still…

The whole foreign celebrity + advertising is well documented (from a website noting who has made appearances to the unappealing film Lost in Translation). At the moment Tommy Lee Jones continues in a ubiquitous, successful, tongue-in-cheek (by him and the makers) and long-running association with Boss can coffee, for example. Quentin Tarantino recently made a guest appearance for mobile carrier Softbank, as another example. But, from abroad, many think that the Japanese have a special interest in using foreign celebrities. Not so – domestic "celebrities" flood domestic advertising, and the "talent" (or tarento) industry is depressingly dominant on commercial TV generally. Even outside of so-called "talent", lauded teenage golfer Ryo Ishikawa advertises so many products all I remember is him and barely a single differentiated product. After the success of the Cannes-winning film Nobody Knows, the actors who played absent mother and abandoned child in that moving and tragic story appeared in a 2007 ad for Daihatsu in which the mother drives off enjoying her car, leaving her son with only delivered pizza to eat. Such direct commercialism (or "taste") would be largely unconsidered in the UK, for example.

The actor who played the mother – You – is a regular on game shows etc (which in Japan mainly star velebs – tarento is actually a career definition) so her joining-line between art and the commercial is fairly straightforward and somewhat repeated worldwide. The most-quoted "split" is still "art" filmmaker and TV "clown" Beat Takeshi.

Anyway, this is merely a blog, not a study of commercialism and art, So, in the general spirit here's two recent examples. The foreign celebrity allegedly "cashing in": in this ad, featuring currently prominently in World Cup coverage, Jamiroquai lends his Virtual Insanity video to Cup Noodle, with dubbed phrases including hara heta ("I'm hungry"):


Or the press launch of the George Romero zombie movie Survival of the Dead with two comedians and the famous-for-their-breasts, Kano sisters. Click through to 1 minute and 20 seconds to see decent comedian Yoshio Koshima perform what, outside of Japan, would surely be seen to have no connection to promoting a zombie movie:

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