Directed By Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksander Dulerayn
"Branded" follows in a long line of anti-corporate science fiction, but unfortunately it follows rather blindly.
All ideas have to be sold, and all are in competition with each other and with other ideas in our minds.
Instead of probing memetics, history, or philosophy the film contents itself to take swipes at fast-food and body image hysteria.
Like "Generation P"(which Branded burrows from liberally), "Branded" features a young intellectual who works at a kiosk after the fall of the Soviet Union, until by chance he becomes a wealthy marketing expert, who through a series of mystical visitations, becomes disaffected with modern capitalism and the alienation it creates.
Similarities end there, where "Generation P"(short for Pepsi) fully integrates its mysticism, political, social, and economic philosophies into a plot both comically and intellectually satisfying, "Branded" loses track of its multiple ill conceived plot threads.
The burning of the red heifer and the spy back story, hang so loose of the bones of the plot, they might as well not be there.
The performances do not tighten any of this up, as every actor seems to be running through rehearsals.
Especially the central couple whose relationship is as thin as the ads they despise; they even have a child who appears as easily, as characters disappear in flashes of lightning (which also literally happens).
"Generation P" shows us a world of interconnections that no longer correspond to simple ideological answers, and that was its point.
"Branded" just insists advertising is evil no matter what product it sells.
Like the parasitical creatures growing out of our necks, our desires for products are unnatural and disgusting.
Ads are demonic and marketers are the shepherd of the devil, and the closest thing to God hates them.
Treating complex socio-economic issues in simple good versus evil terms is a doomed project from the start.
I appreciate the film for its bravery in at least being able to imagine a world without ads, however stupid and sloppy its execution in getting there.
I sympathize, and do believe as Slavoj Zizek has often repeated, that it is easier for the masses to imagine the extermination of all life on earth than it is for them to imagine a world beyond our current modes of capitalism And communism.
So for having some Utopian balls I applaud "Branded", but all of the ideas and execution of the film in nearly every other way, could have used some additional thought in how best to market this utopia to the masses.
The film struck a nerve in its depiction of gelatinous ravenous monkey's on our back, but sadly never truly advances beyond the scene where our hero discovers the conspiracy and his girlfriend asks him as if exhausted at his naivete, "ok, but what are you going to do about it?".
Neither his character nor any other in the film can provide a more nuanced idea than Paul Anka's jingle/maxim from that classic Simpson's episode, and the direction that DVR's are now naturally pointing us toward in our age of information overload, "just don't look."