Black and white and Red all over

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The Independent Culture
No 216: RED

NOWADAYS, magazine commercials usually start with "If you're the kind of person who ..." On the evidence of the commercial for Red, a new women's magazine from Emap, the Red reader's going to be a bit of a funny one, and the magazine will deliver a near-death experience.

It's a terribly elliptical, allusive, tone-poemy sort of a little film: black and white - or rather grey and white - with lots of clever cutting and overlays, suggestive images to the back of the frame, and so forth. It's stream-of-consciousness female interior life as projected on the back of the eyelid, and suggests a rather wispy, worried sensibility. Distancing itself from all the "sassy", sexy, confidence-building, having- it-all themes of the last 20 years, it has excluded men, sex, careers, money and all that stuff from the picture. Instead, you get a lot of angled, bleached-out shots taken around the house: a woman rising out of a bath; smoothing paper across a drawing-board; and engaging in a variety of private satisfactions.

The near-death aspect is very marked. Doorways and staircases are bathed in bright light; this is one's life as floated above, or as remembered in flashes. And the "ifs" attempt a kind of allusive word-painting: "If you don't want it all but just want to have what you want" (a nice one); "If you've grown up without growing old"; "If you think diets don't work" - ie, if you don't want the usual mix of exhortation and escapism, then you're a Red woman.

So what will Red actually do for you? The ad describes a mood well enough - but it also describes the kind of woman who'd say she needs a new magazine like a fish needs a bicycle.