Absolut “I’m Here”

Starting  in the ’80s with commissioning pop artist Andy Warhol to design a vodka bottle, the Absolut brand (handled by TBWA/Chiat/Day) has become a solid (if high-proof) supporter of the arts, and as such, probably has a more successful record than the NEA. There’s a certain amount of glamor surrounding any Absolut project–and this one does not disappoint. “I’m Here” a short film directed by  Spike Jonze, is the story of robot love, set in contemporary Los Angeles. The 30-minute film, which made its debut today at the Sundance Film Festival, includes wonderful music produced by the director’s brother, Sam Spiegel, aka Squeak E. Clean. Jonze has said he was given carte blanche in the project, and he’s also had tremendous success directing commercials. I went in with high expectations: Speaking of the robo-theme, years ago, Jonze did a phenomenally wistful job anthropomorphizing that poor little abandoned goose-necked lamp for an award-winning Ikea commercial. Another award winner for adidas, “Hello, Tomorrow,” featured a haunting, chart-topping song by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, arranged by his brother Sam. From the snippet here, the music seems wonderful. But the primitive look of the ’70s-era computer heads on regular actor people’s bodies was perhaps designed to be annoying–they sure rubbed me the wrong way. I always hated the “Paper Bag players.” So what’s in it for Absolut? In addition to the 30-minute film, there are also 30- and 60-second trailers, to be used online and as TV commercials globally. But maybe that’s the underlying connection: perhaps they are exactly the kind of paper computer heads that seem like visual genius when viewed through the haze following a few vodka martinis.–Barbara Lippert