ENTER THE PASTEL-HUED WORLD OF BARCELONA FILMMAKING COLLECTIVE CANADA

Let’s clear up any confusion first. CANADA has nothing to do with that country across the pond. It’s a production company based in Barcelona (and London), founded by Luis Cerveró, Lope Serrano and Nicolás Méndez.

Let’s clear up any confusion first. CANADA has nothing to do with that country across the pond. It’s a production company based in Barcelona and London, founded by Luis Cerveró, Lope Serrano and Nicolás Méndez. They make short films, videos and commercials. To sum them up: If Wes Anderson ever joined forces with Xavier Dolan on a music video, the result might be something close to what CANADA do. Their work is stylish, in other words: pastel colours, meticulously framed scenes, razor-sharp aesthetics with a retro-futuristic vibe. They dream up images that are as striking as they are off-the-wall. Some examples: a girl licking a roller skate, a parrot nibbling toast, a guy skiing naked against a green screen (the nude aspect, as you will see, is a reoccurring thing).

Since 2008, the international filmmaking collective has been churning out eye-popping work. Their trademark style – sexy, psychedelic, retro-futuristic – has seen them showered with plaudits worldwide. Artists like She and Him, Battles and Phoenix all threw cash at CANADA to see themselves draped in the filmmakers’ visually arresting aesthetic. In the music video game, they’re taking it back to the golden years of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham, when super-cinematic music videos were so attractive you knew those directors had a film career ahead of them. And they did. You suspect it’s the same for CANADA today.

It all started back in 2010 with a music video for Mujeres’ “L.A.”. The first thing you notice is the cavalcade of colours flashing in every corner of the screen. The filmmakers’ visual sensibility, already, was rooted in a sense of fun: the band hops around while arbitrary images flicker around them like a kaleidoscope. It’s a playful assault on the senses, and although it’s kind of rough around the edges (the budget shows), it’s much like their subsequent fast-paced videos for Battles.

A year later, CANADA’s budgets skyrocketed with their breakthrough music video for El Guincho’s “Bombay”. It’s a NSFW romp featuring semi-clothed women doing interesting – and happily cinematic – things like blowing bubbles in milkshakes and brandishing sparklers, everything draped in the company’s trademark 70s colour palette. You sense that the focus is always on creating eye-catching images that look deliciously edible. Which explains why almost every frame from Bombay was plucked by hipster bloggers and plastered all over Tumblr. (Of course, it helped that the song was catchy as hell too.)

El Guincho 'Bombay' from CANADA on Vimeo.

In that video a woman licked a tree. An actual tree. With her tongue. It was weird. But the visionaries from Barcelona took that idea – of women licking strange items – to a whole new level in their surreal video for Battles’ “Ice Cream”. It opens with a girl licking an extremely melted chocolate ice cream in a bath. So far so weird. As the fast-paced video unravels, we see a woman licking a pinecone, then a lamp, then a roller skate. What does it mean? What’s the concept? Who cares when everything looks so fun, when everything is bathed in warm pastel hues that make your mouth salivate? Right?
 

Slotted in between their music videos – highlights of which include Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better” and Justice’s “New Lands” – is their commercial work. Now, anyone who says commercials are inherently uncreative and vacuous needs to see a commercial by CANADA. Take their 2013 video for 55DSL, Beyond Mountains, More Mountains (below). A woman in a bubble bath reads a comic book. The wallpaper in the room is yellow and stripy; it jumps out at you. There’s a loose narrative: a wild party, a girl looking for her boot, the same girl wandering around exotic locations with a boy, the bare bones of a love story. There’s nothing conventional about it. No scene flows logically from the next. Dialogue about dogs and frogs leads to a guy reading a Manzoni book upside down. Like their best work – hazy Instagram filter aesthetic and all – it’s playfully surreal in an everyday kind of way.

'Beyond Mountains, More Mountains' for 55DSL © MMXII from CANADA on Vimeo.

Ultimately, that video looked like a blast to make. And perhaps that’s their main appeal: the work is fun to watch and (seemingly) fun to make. You want to step into the world that their videos conjure into existence. And yes, even their commercials, among which you’ll find a guy skiing naked through the sky (for Red by SFR), dirty plates turned into the stuff of Wes Anderson’s dreams (for Finish), and a man running through an urban labyrinth (for Adidas). If there is a rulebook in adland then CANADA tossed it aside the moment they took the job and picked up the camera.

Whether they’re making ads for banks or music videos for bands, CANADA’s signature, their eye for colour and the sense of fun above all else, is unmistakable. You suspect their feature film career is just around the corner. And when it finally comes, you can be sure they’ll give Xavier Dolan and Wes Anderson a run for their money. In the meantime, maybe hit play on Bombay a few more hundred times.