Once in a while, every advertising firm and trailer house in the country decides to license the exact same song at the exact same time. Usually, it’s something innocuous and cheerful (in this world, Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” is the Platonic Ideal). But this summer — possibly to acknowledge that we’re currently living in a dystopia — everyone seems to have chosen something slightly less pleasant: Michael Kamen’s score for Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil, because nothing says “animated children’s film” quite like “negative Utopia.”
Above is Kamen’s arrangement of “Aquarela do Brasil” in its original context, a tracking shot through the halls of the murderously incompetent Ministry of Information. After the jump are four recent uses of the same song, listed in order of best to worst.
1. The trailer for Sicko:
Easily the most appropriate use of the score, even if Kamen’s arrangement has been chopped to bits. Like Gilliam’s film, the Sicko trailer suggests a battle between a murderous government bureaucracy and a lone rebel. Bonus points for the Ministry of Information–like shots of executives racing through hallways.
2. The trailer for Bee Movie:
Again, the people who cut this trailer evoke the same kind of ominous bureaucracy Gilliam did. But Bee Movie loses points for following “Aquarela do Brasil” with George Michael’s “Freedom ‘90.”
3. The trailer for WALL-E:
Here, we’re losing focus. WALL-E seems to have a boring job, sure, but it doesn’t look like anybody’s getting killed. Clearly Pixar is hoping we’ll associate the music with a general distaste for doing what you’re told, but they’ve replaced black humor with earnestness.
4. “Flower Shop” TV spot for Visa Check Cards:
We certainly wouldn’t have thought of using the score from Brazil to sell a pro-bureaucracy, pro-conformity, pro-capitalism message, but that’s why they pay TBWA\Chiat\ Day the big bucks. This ad presents us with a nightmarish flower shop of Camazotz-like conformity and then suggests that doing anything to change things would be a terrible idea because everyone will glare at you. Although the ad uses Geoff and Maria Muldaur’s version of the song instead of one of Kamen’s arrangements, it’s still best known from the opening credits of Brazil, and it’s an appallingly inappropriate choice.