They called me up and said, ‘Would you like to make a short film for the internet? You can do anything you want, you just need to show the handbag, the Pearl Tower and some old Shanghai.’”
Who could resist such an offer? Not the film director David Lynch, and not when Christian Dior was doing the offering. Lynch may be known for edgy, unorthodox films such as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet but, for the past few years, he has explored a sideline in fashion films. He has worked with Gucci, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent on the filming of the Gucci, Obsession and Opium fragrance adverts respectively, as well as with shoemaker Christian Louboutin on a photographic exhibition about fetishistic shoes.
“I think this idea is real interesting,” says the director, in his southern drawl. And he’s not the only one: Chanel has also lured a roll-call of directorial greats to create its own fragrance advert trilogy: Baz Luhrmann, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amélie) and Martin Scorsese.
For Lynch, it is clear the lines will continue to blur. “This falls between a regular film and a commercial. I liked that idea. There are adverts and people get hit hard, and then there is this, where it is like coming at it from a different angle.”
Lynch’s latest work is the third film in the “Lady Dior” series of film noir mini-features that launched on www.christiandior.com in May 2009 with Lady Noire, directed by Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose). Part two appeared in January: Lady Rouge, directed by music video and film director Jonas Akerlund. Lynch’s Lady Blue is 12 oblique, enigmatic, weird but wonderful minutes crammed with Lynchian leitmotifs – flashing lights, flashbacks and a haunting soundtrack. It launches on the Dior website this weekend.
“Why David Lynch?” asks John Galliano of Dior. “He was the right one – the style, the mystery, the suspense.” Those who log on will see French actress Marion Cotillard, who has starred in all the Dior films, tiptoeing along a deserted corridor in a deserted Shanghai hotel. Music is blaring from her room. She opens the door, terror etched across her face, to find a bag (yes, it’s the Lady Dior!) – blue, square, on a pedestal, a light beaming behind it. Two security guards arrive to investigate and, as Cotillard describes the scene, she slips into a dream-like state. The bag has triggered the memory of febrile kisses exchanged between her and a Chinese paramour in front of Shanghai’s Pearl Tower, and of his hurried escape, handing her a blue rose as he flees. She awakens, a tear trickling down her powdered cheek. She inches towards the bag, opens the clasp, looks inside and finds the blue rose.
What does it all mean? “I didn’t know what the Pearl Tower was,” explains Lynch. He found out “it was inspired by a poem, [about] pearls falling on jade. This thrilled me and started the ideas coming.”
“Ideas are what you want,” continues Lynch, in typically enigmatic mood. “Everybody has machinery, and so when the idea passes through this machine it will come out a little different than if the same idea is passed through another machine.” As for Cotillard, “She has got that modern quality and old quality that I think the great ones have always,” he says.
The commercial aspect of the film has been diluted (the word Dior is notably absent), and this may enhance the brand’s artistic credibility. Moira Benigson, managing partner of the MBS Group, an executive recruitment company specialising in fashion, retail and luxury, says: “For Lynch [the collaboration] opens up his world. It is the merging and blurring of what is art, what is film.” And that is a very Lynchian sort of a thing.
The soft sell
Filming Benicio del Toro and Heather Graham for Calvin Klein’s Obsession fragrance campaign in 1988, David Lynch infused traditional marketing with a cinematic mood to create a new advertising genre devoid of heavy-handed branding.
By 2010 the form had progressed from cinematic vignette to short film, while the directors dabbling included Baz Luhrmann for Chanel No 5 (2004); Ridley Scott for Prada fragrance (2005); and Martin Scorsese for Chanel aftershave (airing this September).
“Chanel works with movie directors because they bring depth, emotion and what we call in French, ‘a supplement of soul,’ ” says Andrew d’Avack, president of Chanel fragrance and beauty. And, of course, increased exposure. As for the actors, cue a natural segue from still adverts and acting as opposed to modelling.
There are also films not directly related to an advertising campaign: photographer Bruce Weber’s for YSL; Karl Lagerfeld’s film Remember Now screened in St Tropez this week, and Miuccia Prada’s own short animation, Fallen Shadows. What better way to expose a brand’s sensitive, intellectual, artsy side? Goodbye sell! sell! sell!, hello linger! savour! appreciate the art! (and then buy the perfume).