February 12, 2011
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Sentimental But New

Next week, I’ll be guest blogging at The Atlantic, while James Fallows finishes his next book.

One of the past week’s crew of Fallows stand-ins has been Ella Chou, a Harvard graduate student who grew up in Hangzhou. She pointed out this extraordinary advertisement for a Chinese instant messenger service. Watch it.

The craft and pacing of this ad are extraordinary, especially the acting of the mother, who conveys confusion and a degree of technical ineptitude without every becoming a buffoon.

My guess is that in China, where this ran as a very high-profile ad for the Spring Festival, the ad may read as merely sentimental. Across oceans and cultures, it’s moving. Sentimental art, removed from its context, can work remarkably well.

This video of sand-animation artist Kseniya Simonova might, to Russian eyes, read like a Hallmark card, like Thomas Kincaid. It sure intrigues me, though I don’t understand the iconography. What does the candle mean?