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WOMB WITH A VIEWFINDER

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An Australian commercial for Fuji film takes a Japanese stereotype all the way back to its source

AT THE CASTING SESSION IN SYDNEY FOR THE CAMPAIGN Palace's new commercial for Fuji film, director Mary Cooke took each Japanese actor aside to explain the scenario. As they listened attentively, they all inevitably burst out laughing.

Apparently political correctness hasn't infected Japan, or Australia, to the degree it has the States, because the commercial in question would never play in America. The 30-second spot is a sendup of the Japanese national trait for taking pictures of almost everything, and the Japanese dialogue needs no translation. Urged on by her husband, a doctor and nurses, a Japanese woman gives birth in typical relaxed TV style. The nurse merrily holds the swaddled infant aloft for the mother's adulation, and the little tyke pops his hands out of his blanket, a little camera at the ready, to take a picture of his stupefied parents. The tag: "Fuji film. As used by the world's top photographers."

Palace CD/AD Ron Mather in- sists the spot has offended no one. "Everybody loves it," he says. "It breaks all the barriers." Indeed, not only has the spot been a hit in Australia but Hanimex, Fuji's Australian distributor, has had a request for a dub from its counterpart in South Africa. As a result, the Palace is helping client Hanimex send copies to Fuji distributors around the world. "I'd love them to use it in America," says Matthew Melhuish, Palace director of client services. "I don't see why they couldn't. It probably puts a bit of balance back in the equation," he adds, referring to the cold portrayal of the Japanese in films like "Rising Sun."

"When the Japanese are taking photos, they're friendly, accessible and warm," Melhuish continues. "That's the key for us. I defy anybody to watch this commercial and not have a really warm feeling."

This inherent charm was vital to the client in Australia, where Fuji fortunes have been falling of late. When pitching the business, CD Mather and chairman/writer Lionel Hunt kept coming back not just to a universally acknowledged stereotype but to the simple fact that the Japanese take more pictures per capita than anyone else in the world, and that Fuji is the No. 1 film in Japan.

Predictably, it was a tricky shoot that confronted director Marty Cooke, who's with Thirty Second Street Film Productions in Melbourne, especially since the law stipulates that babies be oncamera no more than 20 minutes a day. So, rehearsing with a doll, Cooke filmed the camera sequence with four different infants, while, offcamera, makeup and special-effects artist Bob McCarron manipulated the little arms he'd sculpted of foam latex to snap the photo with the special camera, whose flash was remote controlled.

The star of the winning take was six-week-old Amy Li, who, ironically, is Chinese. Even though the children, for obvious aesthetic reasons, were well beyond the newborn stage, willing Japanese new mothers were in short supply.

Though comic moments were not: Hilarious footage of the infants examining photos in the nursery and passing them to one another, originally planned for a kicker to the commercial, ended up on the cutting room floor, perhaps to be used in a separate spot for the Image Plaza, Fuji's chain of photofinishing stores.

"You wanted only one gag in there," explains a satisfied Mather. "There's just

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