Peter York On Ads No 261: Heat: Hot stuff, but is it in vain?

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The Independent Culture
Spontaneous combustion is the sort of thing that happens to Americans in the emptier parts of California, like alien abduction. No one quite knows why housewives and handymen get reduced to a few blackened embers. Is it inner turbulence caused by Hoddle-style, reincarnated sin? Is it a side-effect of nuclear-power generation or New Age medicine? Whatever, it sounds wonderful and very filmic.

The commercial for Heat, a new entertainment magazine, is furiously filmic too and - a first I think - also features spontaneous combustion of a kind. To start with it has a slow, arty, underwater world of greeny-grey boredom - everything very angled, lots of muddy-green filter; a dripping shower head; a woman's legs in a bath, then her head below the water; an old barber putting a greeny-grey cape on a customer in his dingy shop; bored girls through a bus window. It is London on a winter Wednesday.

Greenest and greyest is a Gents - more arty angles - with one cubicle shut and lots of dripping sounds. All this with a variety of jarring, mechanical, buzz effects.

Then the characters get more animated; the woman sits up in the bath; a hand grabs at a magazine on the Gents cubicle floor; a young man runs out into the rain; the haircut customer starts looking around. There is a feeling of desultory foreplay and some expectant shots of modish, Seventies- revival, geometric green tiles. Then, off they flare, combustion all round; in the bath, in the bus, in the street, in the barbers, in the Gents, where it looks like an out-take from London's Burning. It is a terribly pretty, gas-logs, effect, and no one actually burns. They have all been reading Heat and it has given them back the will to live.

It is memorable and it will get talked about; it is right for its market, which will like the stylistic pretensions, and the branding is clear enough. But the jaded may well ask themselves, who needs another weekly entertainment magazine?

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