We have witnessed trends come and go – some just vanishing like they never happened at all; a few leaving a distinct mark that would continue to live on for generations.
What does it take to stay socially relevant? If there’s one single secret to being an icon and remaining as such for decades to come, four world-renowned brands immortalized in documentaries have lived and thrived through it.
It’s mastering the art of perfection, perhaps. Or at least the unwavering quest to attain perfection no matter what.
The Man Who Walked Around The World
For a brand to last a decade and remain iconic, the people behind it must be exceptional. But what should we call brands that have been present for 200 years and still widely celebrated for its unparalleled greatness? Johnnie Walker.
Made with exceptional creativity, “The Man Who Walked Around The World”, explores the journey of the world’s number one whisky, Johnnie Walker and the people that brought it to the world. The feature documentary looks at the rise of the brand – from playing a part in some of history’s most significant events to being immortalized in films, songs and novels.
The film was released last year, in time for the brand’s 200th anniversary, as a recognition of its incomparable milestone. Johnnie Walker, with its distinctive square bottle, iconic striding man logo and label tilted at 20 degrees, has witnessed history, empire expansions and revolutions unfamiliar to today’s generation. “If the Johnnie Walker bottle could talk,” senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University Afshin Molavi says, “it would tell us an extraordinary history of the past two centuries.”
As shown in the docu, Johnnie Walker’s success didn’t come overnight. Its maker, a young but eager Scottish boy, started blending whisky in a grocer’s shop in 1820. John Walker went beyond what was common during his time – stocking a line of single malts – as he blended flavors and textures until he got the perfect spirit. The process was unhurried, but constant and consistent – something only a genius can attain. And from that humble grocery in Kilmarnock, Scotland, Johnnie Walker walked through continents, set its own rules, and took its well-deserved spot in bars around the world.
Today, Johnnie Walker is a symbol of progress, a celebration of success and a token of unity as it’s poured in glasses of whisky lovers.
As for the future? “Perhaps we won’t have flying cars anytime soon. But it’s quite likely that a bottle of Johnnie Walker will look the same in 2050 or a hundred years’ time,” says cultural commentator and social historian Ekow Eshun.
A masterpiece of French filmmaker Olivier Meyrou, “Celebration” gives us a critical – and somehow unsettling – chronicle of the life of couturier Yves Saint Laurent as he prepared for what would be his final collection in 1998 before his brand was sold to Gucci.
He’s seen anguishing over a drawing and then transforming it into a beautiful garment – which, of course, happened only after several sewing, tearing apart and re-sewing until Saint Laurent declares it’s perfect.
Born in 1936, Saint Laurent worked under Christian Dior in the 1950s before creating his own label in the 1960s. His success and fame probably didn’t come as a surprise for the fashion giant. He worked quietly on his desk, but he was covered with a sense of passion and dedication unique to a man who endeavors for flawlessness.
While the title of the film quite contradicts what it portrayed, with Saint Laurent looking so frail, it manages to capture the legendary designer’s meticulous ways of perfecting his craft – and in such light, the film does really celebrate his life and his brand.
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
This fascinating (and inarguably mouth-watering) documentary on then-Michelin-starred chef Jiro Ono shows how a true masterchef works: restless, dedicated, relentless, obsessed.
Inside a bizarre location down the stairs in Ginzo metro station lies the 10-seater, featureless restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. This is where he worked for more than 75 uninterrupted years. And this is where sushi lovers from different continents make a pilgrimage and shell out hundreds of dollars for a meal that can be eaten in 15 minutes. But nobody is complaining. Nobody should.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is an elegant and thoughtful film, following Jiro’s every move as he creates the world’s best sushi – an art he has done so incredibly well through the decades and is quite not yet ready to let go.
Filmmaker David Gelb has provided a curious audience an intimate peek into Jiro’s relationship with sushi, which lies between the fine line of passion and madness. Jiro’s never satisfied, he aims and works for more. His then apprentice, his eldest son, had to spend many weeks learning how to use knives before he was allowed to cook eggs.
“Even at my age, in my work, I haven’t reached perfection,” says Jiro, who was 85 when the documentary was released in 2013. Though anyone who has eaten at Sukiyabashi Jiro – Barack Obama included – would say otherwise.
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates
Software magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates is always on headlines, but no one really knows him beyond Microsoft. Netflix’s three-part documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain”, promises deep, never-before-heard stories about one of the world’s richest and most famous names. We see Bill’s brain in action on the screen, as the camera pans and zooms to the man the world reveres.
Throughout the 157-minute runtime, Davis Guggenheim decodes what’s really inside Bill’s brain – experiences, education, works, marriage, beliefs and in-betweens. What comes out are authentic but chaotic depictions of his life. For a man who spends most of his waking hours juggling complicated projects, Bill has accepted the fact that his mind doesn’t work in neat, straight lines, which his wife Melinda laughingly agreed to.
Bill Gates is a genius, it was obvious in every frame captured by Guggenheim. He spends thousands of hours absorbing and processing information nobody on Earth (well, except for the late Steve Jobs) could ever do.
“I’ve been with him on vacation and he’ll read 14 books,” his friend Bernie Noe says. “That’s a gift, to read 150 pages an hour. I’m gonna say it’s 90 percent retention. Kind of extraordinary.”
Bill Gates’ dedication to his work, which he mastered through the decades, made him the man the world has come to respect.