TIFF delivers eye-popping Packaged Goods
Having established a reputation as a leading institution for the development and dissemination of the cinematic arts, TIFF and its Lightbox enjoy near-religious devotion from Toronto-area cinephiles. That devotion is partly premised, however, on TIFF's broadly inclusive curatorial approach, which ignores distinctions between the pious and the profane. Exemplifying this ethos is the Packaged Goods program, a four-part series showcasing commercial direction's best and brightest. Assembled by ad world maven Rae Ann Fera, the program highlights innovative short films, TV Spots and music videos, and features in-person, behind-the-scenes discussions with several of the field's most promising up 'n' comers.
At a press preview for the series' second installment, I was treated to a glossy barrage of eye-popping 3D, with Fera turning her attention to the phenomenon that James Cameron revived so lucratively with Avatar. Spurred by the success of the immersive sci-fi epic, 3D has become a studio tent pole staple, as well as the cornerstone of consumer electronics initiatives from the likes of Samsung, Sony, and Nintendo. Inevitably, marketers are also eager to draw on 3D's promotional potential, and part two of the Packaged Goods series gathers 21 of the format's most accomplished ads and short commercial offerings. In contrast to some of Hollywood's hastier post-conversions, Fera's 3D-native selections are clearly deliberate in their depth and dimensionality, and often appear strikingly tangible.
Program highlights include the Levi's-sponsored Unbeleafable (Ty Evans), and the Philips-commissioned The Foundling (Barney Cokeliss), two shorts at opposite ends of the 3D subtlety spectrum. The former is a gratuitously autumnal, slow-mo skateboard spectacular, while the latter is the surprisingly affecting story of horned baby boy, abandoned at birth to the care of a traveling circus. Sony's Wimbledon 3D spot also exploits slow motion to great effect, extending a serve and two volleys into 40 seconds of the most convincingly substantial 3D I've yet experienced. Deutsche Telekom, in contrast, employed Paul WS Anderson to direct the world's first 3D time-lapse ad spot, A Thousand Little Things. The added depth reinvigorates the clichÃ©d frenzy of high-speed, bird's-eye LA, even if it doesn't fully redeem Christoph Waltz's bizarrely hammy pitch job. Audi's A Day in the Life rounds out the best of the bunch, literally inviting audiences inside the cockpit of Le Mans veteran Alan McNish. The two-minute spot uses CG animation to illustrate the feats of physical endurance demanded by the 24-hour race, integrating 3D to clever, evocative effect.
The second half of the program swaps Dolby's dichroic filter for disposable old school anaglyphics, and offers a selection of music videos, including four from Pitchfork producer R.J. Bentler. The promos — for indie darlings Deerhunter, Delorean, Neon Indian, and Tame Impala — are pleasingly lo-fi, providing a comparatively diminished sensation of depth, but plenty of charm. Of these, Deerhunter's "Primitive 3-D" (chosen by Bentler for obvious reasons) is the most visually inventive, green-screening the foursome against faux-gruesome drive-in horror footage. "Mind, Drips", from Neon Indian, is an exercise in beat-synched pointillism, while Delorean's "Real Love" tours New York at hyperspeed with a wonderfully dance-happy space man. Ever game for an in-your-face video, Bjork makes an appearance courtesy of Encyclopedia Pictura's surreal clip for "Wanderlust", as do UK dance act Faithless, via M-I-E's psychedelic, anime-inspired take on "Not Going Home".
Following tomorrow's public screening (7pm), Fera will lead a discussion with special guest 3D gurus, Arev Manoukian and James Stewart. Manoukian's sensual, spectacular Nuit Blanche won a spate of awards after hitting the web in 2010, and has earned the Toronto director offers from a number of Hollywood headhunters. His success hasn't arrived overnight, however, and Manoukian will discuss the 8 months of painstaking post-production required to achieve his brief but indelible love story. As founder of Geneva Film — a pioneer in 3D ad production, based in Toronto — Stewart will also offer insights into the 3D filmmaking process. Geneva's slick spot for Lexus, entitled "Pitch", is among Packaged Goods' featured selections.
Packaged Goods screens Thursday, July 21 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets are available online, by phone: 416-599-TIFF, or in person: TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square, 350 King Street West.
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