J. G. Ballard’s ‘Favorite TV commercial of all time’

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Author of Crash and Empire of the Sun, J. G. Ballard once said that a commercial showing ‘robots’ building a Fiat car was his favorite advert of all time.

Ballard made the claim on Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4’s long-running music and interview show, in February 1992, when he shared the 8 records that best represented his life with presenter, Sue Lawley.

As Ballard explained:

‘I like the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville, which many people will have heard as the background music to a wonderful Fiat ad. that was shown on television a few years ago. I think my favorite TV commercial of all time.’

It was Rossini’s “Figaro’s Aria” from the opera that was used in this famous Fiat Strada advert from 1979. The commercial was directed by Hugh Hudson, who is best-known for the Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire. Hudson’s ad was a compelling mix of technology with opera, and was well-known for its tag-line:

Hand built by Robots

That was later famously spoofed on Not the NIne O’Clock News as:

Hand built by Roberts

Amongst Ballard‘s other favorite tracks on Desert island Discs were Noël Coward’s version of “Let’s Do It”, Astrud Gilberto being breathily seductive on “The Girl From Ipanema”, Rita Hayworth and “Put The Blame On Mame”, Henry Hall’s “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and Marlene Dietrich singing “Falling In Love Again”.

Ballard also remarked that he considered himself a “disappointed painter’:

‘I think in many ways I am a sort of disappointed painter, I always wanted to be a painter, but simply lacked the technical ability, lacked the talent. In fact, people say my novels are tremendously visual, in a sense I paint my novels, there you have the life work of a frustrated painter.

Listen/download the full interview here.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Postcards from J. G. Ballard


 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Future Now’: A brilliant portrait of novelist J. G. Ballard, from 1986

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Writers need stability to nurture their talent and unfetter their imagination. Too much chaos dilutes the talent and diminishes the productivity. Writers like Norman Mailer squandered too much time and effort on making his life the story - when in fact he should have been writing it. J. G. Ballard was well aware of this, and he had the quiet certainty of a 3-bed, des res, with shaded garden and off-street parking at front. Yet, Ballard’s seeming conformity to a middle class idyll appeared to astound so many critics, commentators, journalists, whatevers, who all failed to appreciate a true writer’s life is one of lonely, unrelenting sedentary toil, working at a desk 9-5, or however long - otherwise the imagination can not fly.

That’s why I have always found suburbs far more interesting places than those anonymous urban centers. Cities are about mass events - demonstrations, revolution, massacre, war, shared public experience. Suburbia is about the repressed forces of individual action. It’s where the murders are planned, the orgies enjoyed, the drugs devoured, the imagination inspired. Suburbia is where dysfunction is normalized.

And J. G. Ballard was very aware of this.

Future Now is a documentary interview with J G Ballard, made in 1986 not long after he had achieved international success with his faux-biographical novel Empire of the Sun. Opening with a brief tour of his Shepperton home, Ballard gives an excellent and incisive interview, which only reminds what we have lost.

Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara have edited together a brilliant collection of interviews and conversations with J G Ballard 1967-2008, in one volume called Extreme Metaphors, which is a must-have for anyone with an interest in Ballard.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Postcards from J. G. Ballard


 
With thanks to Richard!
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
J.G. Ballard’s Crash!  (A Film By Harley Cokeliss)

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And speaking of David Cronenberg...the Canadian wasn’t the first director to take a stab at J.G. Ballard’s novel.  The San Diego-born (but London educated) Harley Cokeliss directed a version of his own in ‘71.

Since Crash, the novel, was still two years down the road, Cokeliss based the film on some fragments found in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition.  And, perhaps even more suited to the role than James Spader, Ballard himself starred as the film’s lead.  From the Ballardian:

With his brooding, hypermasculine presence, Ballard plays a version of Atrocity’s ‘T’ character alongside the actor Gabrielle Drake, her own role a composite of the book’s archetypal ’sex-kit’ women.  The film was a product of the most experimental, the darkest phase of Ballard’s career.  It was an era of psychological blowback from the sudden, shocking death of his wife in 1964, an era that had produced the cut-up ‘condensed novels’ of Atrocity, plus a series of strange collages and ‘advertisers’ announcements.’

The Ballardian link includes a scene-by-scene description of the hard-to-see short, but, since it’s a recent addition to YouTube, you can start watching it right now below:

 
Crash! Part II

Written by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion