Tuesday, September 22, 2009

James Dean lives

Well, at least he does in this South African made TV commercial. It basically poses the what if question: what if James Dean didn't die at the age of 24? The commercial for South African investment film Allan Gray was filmed in Cape Town.
Imagining an alternative history in which Dean is now a Hollywood elder statesman, it shows the Rebel Without a Cause star on his family ranch, racing his own-brand sports car and receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar. Dean is also seen as film director, humanitarian ambassador and anti-Vietnam war agitator. In the final scene he has a car accident, just as in 1955, but when the smoke clears, he has survived.

Film critic Barry Ronge described the minute-long film as "the perfect blend of simple storytelling, superlative camera effects and the smartest use of a celebrity we have seen in a decade".

"Legend" was shot over 14 months with a cast of 300 and crew of 150. The producers carried out a worldwide search for a suitable actor, considering entrants in James Dean lookalike competitions in the American midwest. But they settled on Des Erasmus, a mechanic from Cape Town.

Keith Rose, director of the ad for Velocity Films, said: "Dean might have become a junkie and done a Marlon Brando, but we prefer to think he'd have lived a long and wholesome life." [The Guardian]

I'm half irked and half misty eyed over the whole thing. Using a long dead James Dean to hawk the services of an investment firm feels a bit wrong, especially considering what a mess the financial sector has gotten us into. It's manipulative, but all commercials are I suppose. Or maybe I'm just grouchy because they had to drag Brando into this as well. But it's a very effective ad - probably one of the best I've ever seen.

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