austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Caught up in the sound of talking drums

More from the Turner Classic Movies division of weird short subjects: RFD Greenwich Village, a one-reeler about the remarkable and darn near suburban lifestyle that one can lead in Greenwich Village, New York City. Based on the film stock, the lawn chairs, and the clothing it's got to date to around 1970, but the credits don't say when.

``Life is cosmopolitan, yet carefree ... Pleasure's found in just being alive ... Suburban living on an urban landscape.'' That all sounds very good but somebody's being sold something, as otherwise why talk about how people go about fixing up their houses, painting, browsing antique shops (``for a possible bargain''), or enjoying the carnival of colors in the Bleeker Street market, where you can buy such exotic foodstuffs as red peppers or French bread. (It must be remembered the United States only discovered that it was possible to eat something which wasn't a slab of meat with potatoes and mushy vegetables around about 1983.)

There's early talk about finding comfort in cotton clothing, and a scene establishing the existence of coffee shops mentions how cotton corduroy is ``as ruggedly appealing as the great outdoors, but sophisticatedly shaped for the modes of cosmopolitan life'', which weirdly fails to mention the best thing about corduroy, that fwit-fwit noise its pants make while walking. Tragically, the man in this scene is shown in a corduroy jacket, which he's probably still being teased by his friends about.

Eventually the viewer guesses the short is supposed to sell the idea of wearing cotton, although like a lot of advertising shorts it forgets to actually deliver a clear advertising message. Compare it to Once Upon A Honeymoon, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic which tries to sell people on telephones without ever actually saying, hey, phones are useful so why not get a few more; or A Case Of Spring Fever, which seems to be trying to sell Chevrolet's then-new line of cars on their suspension systems by showing how the world would suck if there weren't springs. When you're pitching cotton, talk about how Washington Square was ``once a field for bloody Indian battles and aristocratic duels, hangings and potter's burials'' is leaving you so far away from your message that you risk never getting back.

I suppose if we must have advertising I appreciate ones which are weird and a soft sell, but assuring me that Edwin Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Winslow Homer, and O Henry lived in Greenwich Village doesn't get me where they want. The credits finally admit this was ``Produced by the Cotton Producers Institute'', a line which encapsulates the confusion the narrative engenders.

Trivia: On 6 November 1792, French deputies Louis Pierre Manuel and Antoine Joseph Garsas asked the Committee of Public Instruction to reform the calendar. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: The Making Of The Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes.

(And a happy National Haiku Pedantry Month to all participants!)


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