Friday, August 29, 2008
D: Wong Kar-wai, USA, 2001, approx. 9 minutes
Source: BMW Films, no longer available
A driver is hired by a movie star's assistant to follow the star's girlfriend (wife? lover?), who he suspects of infidelity. He tracks her, and narrates the nature of such tailing as he chases her around Los Angeles. He tracks her to LAX, where she tries to catch a plane to Rio de Janeiro, which is delayed. In a visually poetic moment, the driver breaks his own rule ("don't get too close") for a moment, only to discover something about the nature of this woman's relationship.
The Follow is a gorgeous film, typical of Wong Kar-wai's moving work in features such as In the Mood for Love and 2046. Upon its web-only release in 2001, however, it was also part of a larger series of works: The Hire featured five short films produced by David Fincher and directed by different directions with only two common elements, the unnamed Driver (played by Clive Owen) and the cars, all BMWs. Indeed all five films were part of an interesting commercial campaign called BMW films where the "films" themselves used the cars in fascinating ways, often involving car chases (like in this one) and sometimes even causing the cars to crash. The clear, cool nature of both Owen and the car exuded from these films, and vice-versa. More than the other four in the series, Wong's film also directly related these shorts to the concept of the art film, which can allow us to consider the nature of the audience that these films -- and likewise the cars -- are marketed to. Do those of us who watch these kind of films want to buy BMWs? Can we afford them?
The Follow therefore walks a fascinatingly fine line between "film" and "commercial." The series as a whole could be accessed under the very name "film" and played at the Cannes Film Festival; all the players involved (actors, directors, etc.) are related to film as well, and the budgets for these pieces certainly was along similar lines with commercials. And yet, these "films" won CLIO awards for best commercial pieces which naturally showcase the ubiquitous cars which handle rather nicely. This invites us to consider the nature of the commercial at all: where does the concept of the "film" begin and end?