Cinophile: How To Get Ahead In Advertising

3 min read
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The ethics of advertising lead to talking boils…

Director Bruce Robinson also provided the voice for the boil, though he didn’t give himself credit for that - perhaps to keep the spotlight on Richard E. Grant’s manic performances. Robinson only ever directed four movies, but he also wrote the script for The Killing Fields.
Director Bruce Robinson also provided the voice for the boil, though he didn’t give himself credit for that – perhaps to keep the spotlight on Richard E. Grant’s manic performances. Robinson only ever directed four movies, but he also wrote the script for The Killing Fields.

Greed is good! Yeah, you know that one. It was uttered in the epic Wall Street, still held as the magnum opus on self-indulgence and following the almighty dollar (or your currency of choice). Most recently we had Wolf of Wall Street, but the past is full of films like Other People’s Money, The Player, Trading Places, Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room… Yet many miss one of the genre’s best entries – a story about a boil…

Denis Dimbleby Bagley is an advertising executive and at the top of his game. He has his world of potential consumers sussed out quite well – to sell food, he explains, it either has to be low in something or high in something. Later he lectures a priest and a businessman on the possibilities of the word ‘may’ when it comes to drugs at an orgy. But all the time he is feeling the pressure of his latest assignment – a name and a campaign for a new pimple cream. The stress mounts to a point that Bagley develops a mystery boil on his shoulder.

Robinson disappeared from films after directing Jennifer 8, which he accuses the studio of massacring with huge cuts. He was eventually coaxed back by friend Johnny Depp to create The Rum Diaries in 2011.
Robinson disappeared from films after directing Jennifer 8, which he accuses the studio of massacring with huge cuts. He was eventually coaxed back by friend Johnny Depp to create The Rum Diaries in 2011.

This is where How To Get Ahead In Advertising changes gear from an anti-greed dark comedy to something rather more surreal. Well, Bagley’s boil starts to talk. And develops a face. And only Bagley seems to notice…

How To Get Ahead In Advertising is a sharp and dark critique of materialism, excess and power. But even if you completely miss the messages in its undertone, it still stands tall as an insane comedy starring Bagley as he descends into madness (or is he?). A particular moment of genius comes when you see one of Grant’s incarnations debate with a video recording of himself. Critically speaking, the world stands divided on this movie and some think it just layers it on too thick. But these days it seems almost prophetic. At the very least, it’s a fantastic film – the kind where you will say “What the hell did I just watch?”, yet not feel bad about it…

Grant has noted his performance in this film as one of the most intense in his career, because the mainly character is almost permanently high-strung and descending into madness.
Grant has noted his performance in this film as one of the most intense in his career, because the mainly character is almost permanently high-strung and descending into madness.

Best Scene: If you look closely, you can see two animated birds leave the house as Bagley arrives. This signals the tonal shift in the film.

Best Quote:  And although I’m aware of the difficulties of coming to terms with this, it must be appreciated from the beginning, that even the nosh pot must be low in something, and if it isn’t, it must be high in something else, and that is its health-giving ingredient we will sell.

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

 

Last Updated: March 24, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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