Meet Loudini. He's a sad sack illusionist who can't even pull a rabbit out of a hat. But even after the world's worst day, he stays at it, dumping the excess glitter out of his shoes and getting back out on stage—because it's who he is, and it's what he does.
That's the basic premise of a new video from Ray-Ban Films, part of the eyewear brand's #ItTakesCourage campaign, which has also seen the brand make people stare into each other's eyes for four minutes, hoping to spark … something.
In the six-minute Loudini clip, written and directed by Conor Byrne of Hungry Man, the struggling protagonist, played by Henry Zebrowski, bombs his regular gig at a senior citizens center—a junky role to begin with—by managing to produce only a stuffed bunny ear (as opposed to the whole animal) from his formal headgear. Out in the parking lot, in the midst of discovering his car won't start, he gets fired from the job altogether.
A few blocks away, while waiting for the bus, he finds himself charmed by a nearby busker who is strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a song about working hard to build something—a tune actually composed for the video by indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, whose frontman, Will Toledo, plays the street musician. Loudini gives Toledo a giant trick coin, before turning to walk a while, while bits of shiny metallic dust pour ridiculously from the legs of his pants.
He finally makes it home—where he keeps, naturally, his Houdini shrine—but there, his girlfriend has finally had it with his signature Loudini cape and giant bag full of obnoxious "illusion dust" (seriously, that stuff must get everywhere, and be impossible to clean up). She appears to leave him—or at the very least, be moving fast in that direction.
Nonetheless, he's determined not to give up. He digs around and finds the one-eared remainder of his stuffed rabbit, which has somehow found itself wedged behind a filing cabinet. He dusts himself off, tidies his tuxedo and bow tie, and takes off, full of vim, for his next appearance at a boy's birthday party. There, he finds a fresh obstacle in the brat-of-honor, who apparently wanted a clown for this year's entertainment.
"Well, I'm no clown," Loudini says, as if he's not quite convinced himself. "Sorry, kid," he adds, before walking away.
But—spoiler alert—right before he clears the front yard, he stops, and removes his top hat, and after a beat, lands the rabbit trick. The kid's skeptical face warms, and he concedes, inviting Loudini into the house. The chorus of the full-band version of the Car Room Headrest song—"Does It Feel Good (to Say Goodbye?)"—kicks in under a super of the title. The story is over, and the credits begin to roll. Only after they're done, does the tagline appear—in case you forgot what it was, "#ItTakesCourage."
Overall, the film is beautifully produced, if a bit long-winded, and difficult to decipher—more art than advertising. Perhaps to Ray-Ban's credit, or perhaps to the detriment of its purpose, there aren't any of its iconic shades to be seen in the video. And while a couple of characters, including Toledo's, are wearing eyeglasses, there's nothing to obviously indicate they're the brand's models.
In fact, it's not entirely clear what the brand's purpose is, other than the bankrolling of creativity, and the encouragement of personal passion, which are not ignoble pursuits, or entirely inconsistent with an overall image that includes historical positions like "Never Hide" and more recent campaigns like "Do You" (wherein a stream of diverse faces are literally half-replaced by various Ray-Ban frames, arguably the exact opposite of the minimal-product, minimal-branding approach on display here).
The Google search meta description for the Ray-Ban Films webpage, meanwhile, describes it as a "collection of unique and entertaining videos that symbolize the cool and relaxed spirit of [the Ray-Ban] community." There, visitors will also find various bits of content, like reality-style videos of electronic music producer Kerri Chandler putting together an acoustic ensemble to play one of his songs in a cathedral, or young couples trying to reconcile after breaking up.
In other words, in this latest work from the brand's marketing studio, viewers are left to more or less intuit the point, whether or not they're familiar with the Ray-Ban's values. The point, in all likelihood, is simply to be entertained—and there have certainly been worse attempts to do that. Just take, for example, Loudini's magic tricks.
Written & Directed by Conor Byrne
Produced by Tyler Byrne
Featuring Car Seat Headrest performing "Does it Feel Good?"
Lou – Henry Zebrowski
Sandy – Allyn Rachel
Doug – Robert Lee
Birthday Billy – Jakob Verweij
Executive Producer – Kevin Byrne
Director of Photography – Adam Newport-Berra
Production Designer – Michael Krantz
Editor – Craig Deardorff
Original Score by – Fall on Your Sword
Costume Designer – Chrissy Morton
Casting by – Kathy Knowles
Co-Executive Producer – David Laub
Creative Agency – Yours Truly Creative
Creative Directors – Babak Khoshnoud & Will Abramson
Agency Producer – Francesca Orrach
1st Assistant Director – Jimmy Ramirez
2nd Assistant Director – Tasha Tacosa
Production Manager – Alanna Dillon
Production Coordinator – Amanda Cordes
Asst. Production Coordinator – Kenneth Culver
Gaffer – Felipe Solarez
Best Boy Electric – Patrick Hubbard
Electric – Dave Vi Han
Key Grip – Conrad Wendland
Best Boy Grip – Tyler Johnson-Williams
Grips -Ringo Betancourt, Brody Culbertson
1st AC – Scott Michael Johnson
2nd AC – Artur Gubin
DIT – Derrick Cohan
Set Decorator – Christian Corio
On Set Dresser – Kevin Dwyer
Swing Gang – Caleb Dawson, Chris Newell
Assistant Set Decorator – Steve Kiratsous
Art Department Coordinator – Tara Walker
Arts & Crafts – Analise Hellman
Glitter Ring Maker – Rich Sandomeno
Painter – Gregg Gibbs
Production Sound Mixer – Chuck Fitzpatrick
Boom Operator – Richard Geerts
Script Supervisor – Brett Hamann
Hair & Makeup Artist – Marisa Ramirez
Location Manager – Rusty Tinder
Magic Consultants – Greg Wilson, Chris Mitchell
Editorial – Cosmo Street
Assistant Editor – Quincey Martin-Chapman
Post Sr. Prodcuer – Luiza Naritomi
Executive Post Producer – Maura Woodward
Sound Post Production by – Heard City
Re-Recording Mixer – Cory Melious
Color Services by – The Mill
Colorist – Mikey Rossiter
Color Producer – Natalie Westerfield
Finishing by – Switch FX
Flame Artist – Jon Magel
Gwen Van Dam
Mom & Dad
A Brudder Film