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Roman Polanski, Ssaki, and Le Sacrifice Commercial by Stella Artois

Roman Polanski’s 1962 short Ssaki is a Surrealist tale of co-operation and compassion. The two characters (Henryk Kluba and Michal Zolnierkiewicz) wander across the snowy wonderland. We don’t know where they are from, or where they are going to. Initially they have a sledge and they drive one another in turns; then the sledge is stolen, but the spirit of camaraderie never fails them as their journey continues. Polanski who co-wrote the film and directed it received two awards, one at the Cracow Film Festival, another at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival.

As I was watching Polanski’s short, I couldn’t help recalling this famous Stella Artois commercial, Le Sacrifice. The legacy of Surrealism is hard to overestimate, with its absurd and eery landscapes and rooms inhabited by clowns and phantoms.

A Guinness Tour on St Patrick’s Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day 2011

While wishing a happy St Patrick’s Day to all my Irish friends and readers, I’d like to share with you a great photoreport from Sarah from The Daily Nibbles blog. She and her mother visited Dublin in 2010 and had a tour of the Guinness factory. Along with a few interesting facts you will see a lot of photos, two of them are below to tease your ale buds.

Guinness Production Cycle

Speaking of beers, I have so far been disappointed with Stella Artois I drank here in Moscow. Although it was bottled, not canned, the taste was distinctly different. If I understand anything about beer production, my inkling is that the Russian distributor must be adding water to the beverage. In this sense, we have done to Stella what the English had done to the tea, according to George Mikes: by adding milk to tea, they turned the flavoursome exotic drink into a tasteless beverage. Making Stella more “watery”, I’d say, is a much bigger insult.

Still, there is at least one ‘proper’ Irish pub in Moscow, which I will visit very soon. I’m not sure about Guinness as such, but I am dying for a good pint of beer.

As they say, you can take a girl out of England…

Films As Christmas Presents: Stella Artois Brings the French Cinema Classics Online

The creators of The Auteurs website listed five questions that got them set up the new social cinema experience:

#1: Why can’t you watch In the Mood for Love in a café in Tokyo on your laptop?
#2: Why is it so hard to meet people who share the same love for Antonioni?
#3: Wouldn’t it be great to instantly send Tati’s Playtime to a friend if you think they needed it? (There’s nothing like film therapy!)
#4: Why do films on the internet just look awful?
#5: Why are we talking as if we were John Cusack in High Fidelity?

I would add two more questions:

#6: Are you getting tired of trolls and opinionated madmen that populate IMDb.com discussion boards (so it seems sometimes, anyway)?
#7: Do you love visionary films but are breaking your neck trying to find them anywhere, online or in shops?

If you answered “yes” to questions #3, #6 and #7, and have asked the questions #1, #2, #4, and #5 previously and had no answer, then welcome to The Auteurs – “your online cinema anytime, anywhere”.

Supported by Stella Artois, The Auteurs

is not just about discovering wonderful new cinema or classic masterpieces. It’s also about discussing and sharing these discoveries, which makes us like a small coffee shop—… a place where you can gather and talk about alternative endings, directors’ cuts, and whatever those frogs in Magnolia meant. Heated debates and passionate arguments are welcome.

Some films may be free, others will cost a modest fee (far less than anything you may have to pay at your local cinema), but from 15 until 22 December you can watch a few films online for free, all thanks to the generous support from Stella Artois. Best of all, of course, is that what I have seen so far is streamed in the original languages, although with subtitles. Thus, if you want to practise your French skills, join the club.

Renowned for its advertising feats that saw beer ads produced as witty and colourful mini films, Stella Artois has sponsored an impressive selection of the French movie classics: Lola (1961, Jacques Demy), Les 400 Coups (1959, Francois Truffaut), Jules et Jim (1962, Francois Truffaut), Masculin, Féminin (1966, Jean-Luc Godard), Vivre Sa Vie (1962, Jean-Luc Godard), La Jetée (1962, Chris Marker), and Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959, an adaptation by André Resnais of a screenplay by Marguerite Duras). Aptly called Le Recyclage de Luxe, this selection makes for a great introduction to the French cinema for those who are only just discovering it, and a wonderful Christmas present for the converts.

Donc le Père Noël nous a presenté une fête du cinéma classique, et tous la peuvent joindre en s’inscrivant au site. Et ceux qui ne vivent que pour les réseaux sociaux vont connecter le site avec le Facebook, pour partager les chefs-d’oeuvre du cinéma mondial avec leurs ami(e)s.

To start watching films, click here: LE RECYCLAGE DE LUXE.

My Favourite Artois Commercials

Sam over at ArtoisBlog wrote in detail about one of my favourite Stella Artois commercials – Ice Skating Priests. I can’t remember if I saw it for the first time before or after watching Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy, but once I’ve known the film I knew that the leading character was played by Zbigniew Zamachowski, Karol Karol from Three Colours: White. Follow through to Sam’s article to learn about the music and some other facts (which I’m not going to divulge). I adore this commercial, and bearing in mind the date – 24th December – Ice Skating Priests should put us all in the mood for Christmas.

Another Stella’s commercial, Le Sacrifice, entered my life for the first time at Cornerhouse, before the screening of a certain film. I’m quite sure it was in 2004. This commercial is dear to me for its many a reference to French cinema of the 1900s, to surrealism and, in particular, to Louis Bunuel. Somebody on YouTube wondered why such “unfathomable” commercial was ever produced. Well, all surrealism is unfathomable; it’s all about a dream. I suppose my answer would be – this ad shows us that when you love your beverage, then no flies in the bottle or the prospect of turning into a oistrich can put you off drinking it! Absurd? But so is often surrealism.

Can You Pass On Something Good?

From the diary of Dr Horace Stubbs:

“Once upon a time during my travels through Europe I stayed in a small village just outside the old lovely city of Leuven. It was a cold November evening, and the village was all covered with the ghostly fog. A dog was howling in the distance, and it was about to rain. I knocked on the door of the first inn that I noticed. The porter, a boy of about fifteen years of age, gave me a room, but told me that their cook went down with the cold and that I would have to dine in the village. I was rather unpleasantly surprised for I have never been in this village before.

‘We’ve only got one pub’, the boy told me, ‘but surely it is the best one in your life, sir’.

‘What is it that makes this pub the best one?’ I inquired, still wishing I asked the post carriage to drive me to Leuven.

‘They always pass on something good there’, the boy replied.

While travelling, I have come across many strange customs and laws, and I have heard so many puzzling proverbs and sayings that I did not even ask the boy for details of that “something good”. As long as I could have a dinner and a pint, it was fairly good already.

I truly craved a good dinner, and my legs seemed to have been carrying me to the pub by themselves. The pub was a short building with the steep roof and a few lanterns that hanged along the wall. I saw a cart driving up the street towards me. When it went past I turned back, and then I noticed a tall slim gendarme walking down the street. We smiled at each other, but his face was serious as if he was looking for somebody.

When I entered the pub, I took a table in the farthest corner. In most of my journeys I enjoy taking such table. Of course, at times it is delightful to sit in the middle of the dinner hall, especially if you are eating out in a company of your good friends, or your acquaintance is a lady who is lovely to be seen with. But if I dine alone, I take a table in the farthest corner. I ordered a grilled beef steak and, knowing I was in Belgium, asked for a chalice of Artois. The chalice arrived, and the taste and the smoothness of this beautiful drink were such that I instantly forgot about the cold November night outside the pub, about the policeman, about the long months that I spent travelling from country to country.

Furthermore, as I looked around I noticed people who were all jolly and nice, and all women who were there were fair and beautiful in this peculiarly bucolic way that you can only see in the village. I felt very good indeed, and by then my dish had arrived, and I was having another chalice, and the meat was cooked so gently that it was, by Nature, the best meat I have tasted in my life. While I was enjoying the food, I observed that the local people were most considerate, as they passed a hat of the old gentleman on to him. I did not want to leave, for somehow I felt very much at home in the place I barely knew, with people I have never seen before, and most likely will never see again…”

This extract from the imaginary diary was inspired by the new Stella Artois TV ad. As I entered La Publicite section of Artois.co.uk, there was the screening of Pass On Something Good. I was instantly taken by the warmth of the pub atmosphere. The capacity to “pass on something good”, which in the case with La Famille Artois runs in the family, makes you want to find yourself in that pub, on that exactly night. And so, being a wanderer at heart who nonetheless loves arriving and staying (and eating and drinking, of course) at a warm cosy place, I imagined myself as an English gentleman travelling abroad a century ago, and arriving by chance to this place where I was served not only with a perfect steak and beer, but also – with indelible memories.

Closing my notebook and getting to facts, this new Artois commercial is perhaps quite different from the ones we’re all used to. Read Sam’s article on Artois Blog about making this cinead (I can’t just call such ad an ad!). There are also a few interesting facts about it, of which I am going to divulge you all but one. If you ever wondered if or not animals ever audition for their parts, now there is a solid proof that they do. Two apes auditioned for the part of monkey. The one who got the part ended up passing on something very dazzling. Oh, and music was specially composed by Jim Copperthwaite.

One last thing – ArtoisAds and ArtoisBlog have both got their pages on YouTube.

Stella Artois: Just the Name Makes the Beer Taste Better

Whether you are a cinema fan, or a beer fan, the name of Stella Artois is familiar to you. Exquisite TV adverts with an anecdotal story at heart of each of them, praising the labour of love of the Belgian brewery in Leuven. The Belgian tradition of brewing the beer dates back to 1366, and last year saw Stella Artois’s 640’s anniversary. The launch of a new interactive website this year is a perfect birthday gift to the dedicated beer-makers and to all faithful Artois lovers.

The website is located at www.artois.co.uk, but on October 8th it was only open to a limited number of people invited for its online premiere. It was a pleasant surprise for me to have been invited (along with “various designers, marketers, film enthusiasts, beer connoisseurs and reasonably friendly-seeming people”, to quote the invitation email), and I have just spent the most wonderful hour on the site. As you see from a very blurred image on the top left, I had to type in two special words to access the site, and once I did I have entered the Artois Wonderland.

On your journey through the Wonderland you are being guided not by a White Rabbit, but by a newly appointed (i.e. invented) Artois brew master (left). As the creators of the website, Johan Tesch, Noel Pretorius, and Tim Scheibel, explain, the whole visual language of the journey is strongly influenced by the early 20th c. posters., films, and Artois’s own print ads of the time. To get in the mood for your journey, watch this teaser (courtesy of http://www.artoisblog.co.uk/).


As it happens in all polite houses, La Famille Artois first introduces you to their beers (left). After learning everything you certainly did not know about these wonderful beverages, you are taken to the dawn of history of La Famille Artois. The section Le Courage (right), which, as the creators admit, is one of the most entertaining, captivating, innovative and humorous parts of the site, potently reminds one that to brew a good beer in 1366 was indeed an act of courage. The hard-working citizens of Leuven had to balance the Earth, fight against the evil spirits, and even to appease gods. But we, modern people, obviously know that the Earth has got no end, and we can help, for example, to balance it. A Greek mathematician, Archimedes, reportedly claimed that he could overturn the Earth with the help of a mere stick, all for the sake of science. Well, to make a perfect beer is a science, too, so you have 30 seconds to turn the Earth with your mouse, to save the precious hops.

I must admit: although I managed to balance the Earth and to appease the gods, I was unable to do any more for the lovely people of medieval Leuven. In particular, I couldn’t lit the lantern of a brewer who went to collect water, and I was told that “the people of Leuven would be sorry tonight”. So am I.

The next section, L’Origine, tells the actual story of La Famille Artois, from 1366 when Den Horen brewery had been established in Leuven to 1926 when the Artois produced the first filtered lager (left). La Publicité is a deftly arranged collection of diverse and sundry TV adverts, of which you may perhaps recognise the one on the right. And the section L’Etranger is the best place to test your knowledge of pouring the ideal glass of beer, or better else, of learning how to do it (below). At least with regards to La Publicité, I can imagine its content being enjoyed and put to good use by some clever cinema or media student.

Although the Stella Artois website would be impossible without the three gifted guys I mentioned above, it is accompanied by a special Artois Blog, written mainly by Sam. The blog serves as a hub of everything you want to know about La Famille Artois, as well as the website developments, and Sam has granted permission to use some of the contents in this post.

The website will be up and running full-time since October 9th, and I hope the teaser and the pictures have put you in the right mood for enjoying the process of “passing on something good”, as Artois have been doing for over six hundred years. As for me, I totally enjoyed it, mostly as a cinema fan rather than a beer connoisseur, but also as an historian. I notice I keep getting back to where I came from academically, that is Medieval and Early Modern History. Le Courage is absolutely a hit for me, for its amazing animation and subtle jokes on the Titanic labour of medieval beer-makers. But as you also know, I am a Francophone, and all the sections after Le Courage is a great treat for someone like me. Finally, I just loved this phrase, which sounds like a perfect tagline and has been used in this post’s title: “just the name makes the beer taste better”. Vraiment, c’est ça!

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