Remember this advertisement for the Honda Accord?

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Utter silence, a check that the lighting is just right, and “action!”. Scores of grown men hold their breath as the cameras roll. An oil can is tipped and glugs just enough of its contents on to a shelf that has been weighted with a Honda flywheel. Some valve springs roll into the oil and are slowed to a pace perfect to make them drop into a cylinder head assembly.

If all these technical names are confusing, that is partly the point. The advertisement was designed to show motorists all the fiddly little bits of engineering that go into the modern Honda. The result, in this film at least, is something approaching mechanical perfection and a bewitching aesthetic. As car adverts go, it certainly beats the “Nicole! Papa!” school of commercial.

If nothing else, Cog is a welcome departure from the generality of car advertisements that feature winding-road landcapes, empty highways and clear blue skies. The absence of people from the commercial at least saved Honda having to make any regional alterations.

It will be able to be shown everywhere from Japan to South America, Finland to the Maldives, without any more alteration than perhaps a change of the closing voiceover, currently delivered by laid-back Garrison Keillor, the American author, who announces: “Isn’t it nice when things just work?”

Cog looks certain to become an advertising legend and part of its allure is the seemingly effortless way the relay of parts slide and touch and roll with such apparent ease. The reality of the film’s production was slightly different. It was, by most measures of human patience, a nightmare.

Filming was done over four near-sleepless days in a Paris studio, after one month of script approval, two months of concept drawings and a further four months of development and testing. One of the more surprising things about the ad is that it was not a cheat. Although it would have been much easier to fiddle the chain of events by using computer graphics, the seesaw and shunt of events really did happen, and in one, clean take.

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