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The Independent (10/Dec/2007) - The genius, the Hitchcock script and the wine ad that will pop your cork

(c) The Independent (10/Dec/2007)

The genius, the Hitchcock script and the wine ad that will pop your cork

This fall, film-maker Martin Scorsese embarked on a secret experiment in film-making. A project which could have big repercussions for future film preservation. Or maybe not.

Scorsese is a genius, of course. Taxi Driver, Goodfellas. But his latest production is clearly something else. You see, Scorsese has discovered an unfinished script written by Alfred Hitchcock for a film that was never made.

So Scorsese decides to make it. And he captures the whole project in a behind-the-scenes short about the making of the film. You can watch it on YouTube, it's well worth a view. The Hitchcock tribute – called The Key To Reserva – is beautiful, authentic. Think Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest (which is the source for the music).

It's set in New York's Carnegie Hall, where an orchestra is playing before a high society audience. A drama unfolds involving a locked case, a search for the key, intrigue, murder, romance ...and a bottle of plonk.

Yes, plonk. Mid-range Spanish wine. Freixenet to be precise. Because, if you haven't guessed already, I confess what Scorsese has actually made is an elaborate ad. Not that you'd know until the final minute or two: it's deftly done.

Using a vintage director (and editor Thelma Schoonmaker) to shoot a wine ad is not quite as incongruous as it might appear. Freixenet has dipped into the Hollywood A-List for its Christmas campaigns for the last 40 years. Liza Minnelli, Meg Ryan, Paul Newman, Gwyneth Paltrow. But this year, and onwards, the Spanish brand has dropped actors in favour of directors, who will be given carte blanche to shoot the Christmas campaign any way they fancy.

With the Scorsese effort, Freixenet gets four for the price of two. Two films (the making of and the mini-movie itself) and two directors (Scorsese and Hitchcock). And Scorsese the actor, playing himself in the making of film, is superb. Still, it's all very fancy for what is essentially a pretty ordinary brand. When the hero in Scorsese's film unlocks the case to reveal a bottle of Freixenet you're left feeling a little cheated, a little grubby.

It's not the first time Scorsese has pocketed adland's filthy lucre. He's made a couple of ads for American Express. But has he sold out with this job? If he hadn't produced such a stunningly convincing homage to Hitchcock, you'd probably say yes. But the sheer entertainment value of the end result more than makes up for any discomfort the work's commercial backbone might induce.

As for Hitchcock, would he approve? Hmm, I'm not so sure. Neither, it seems, is Scorsese. The "making of" film ends with a wonderful shot (think Rear Window) panning back from an office where Scorsese is seated.

He's talking about what Hitchcock might make of it all, and asking if he has preserved his vision. "While I'm doing this I think I feel him kinda looking over our shoulders, you know... the only thing I hope is that he takes it in the right spirit." (Pun intended?) Pan back, pan back, and you see the big black Birds gathering on the office block sills, watching, waiting.

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