Sunday, October 4, 2009

Flou artistique: new ad for Chanel No.5 with Audrey Tautou

The new print ads for Chanel No.5 with its latest face are starting to spread over the glossies. Audrey Tautou, the French actress who stars as the young Gabrielle Chanel herself in the film "Coco before Chanel", of which we talked in detail here, divulged: “The feature film enabled me to learn a lot more about Coco Chanel. She was an innovator, ahead of her era. The fact that she created a fragrance in the 1920s that could just as easily have been created yesterday reflects the standard of excellence that applied to everything she did in her life. By playing Coco and getting to know her, I understood, even more, just how unique N°5 really is.”

The film commercial for No.5 with Tautou has been a resounding success ( Watch it here if you haven't yet). Can the new print ad compete with the previous representations? It all depends...

In discussing the visual style of the advertisement with my collaborator AlbertCan, we zeroed in the shots of Krzysztof Kieslowski's flou artistique in "La double vie de Veronique" (1991). The other references are there too if we take into consideration the commercial for No.5: The window pane, the missing element, the deja vu impressions, even the beauty ideal that Audrey Tautou and Irène Jacob both represent (not implying they're doppelgänger): elfin, dark, delicate but thoughtful. After all, as I had written in the past (scroll for "Perfumes in Dialogue with One Another"), there is a thing called intertextuality, which is none the less brightly running through the course of perfumery and the visual arts that accompany it.

The focal point in La double vie de Veronique was the existential question of free will or fate. Without resorting to such elaborate and antithetical to the premise of luxurious abandon that perfume should evoke, isn't Chanel No.5 winking at us through its commercials and advertisments, as well as their egeries, that there is a reason behind every choice we make and the choice has but one name, that of Chanel?

Audrey Tautou redefines the new path that the Chanel No.5 woman is travelling, a younger, less haute and less poised one ~away from the couture of Kidman or the world-wise beauty of Deneuve. Alone, with the inner reflection of herself, a point of departure for a journey to the inner side, the one which wants to be reunited with the past and the future. Her eyes, looking at us through the hazy contours of the window reflection, seem to speak to us of the above. The luxury we have come to expect from Chanel is there, in the form of the diamond starfish hanging from Audrey's neck, but her tousled hair, the emblematic little black dress taking an almost casual air on her and her expressive mien, speak of an effort on the part of the new direction of Chanel to speak in a language that is audible to a new clientele. This new introspection is the reflexes of a quick-pulsed team who monitor the recessive perfume market and are replying by a more modest but perhaps also more esoteric approach to the visualisation of what in essence is but a dream...that of perfume!
And perhaps to further the thought that cinematically started my musings "Each of us is matched somewhere in the world, by our exact double - someone who shares our thoughts and dreams". Perhaps one of you is that someone who shares those thoughts and dreams through No.5?

Pics and


  1. Anonymous15:08

    Dear E,

    The commercial is very lovely and I love the entire idea and vision of Chanel. I am itching to see the movie. to sharing the dreams and hopes of a dopelganger also wearing No. 5? I am afraid not. I am almost afraid to speak ill of a legend but this scent has always been less than legendary on me. My first (and middle, and last...) impression of No 5 was that of the automatic air fresheners sometimes used in public restrooms:( Sorry No5, I tried so hard to love you.


  2. Anonymous19:09

    Actually, now that N has courageously shared her story I am compelled to share Jacques Helleu's strongest memory of Chanel No. 5. When he was very young (5 or 6...the exact age eludes me) the family boat was caught on fire during one family vacation so he and his mother were stranded on a small island while waiting to be rescued.

    Did I mention the beautiful Madame Helleu was wearing, what else, Chanel No. 5? So for the rest of the his life Monsieur Helleu talked about how the fragrance actually evokes a sense a danger to him.

    Now, Jacques adored his mom: if I'm mistaken she was, in many ways, his golden standard of feminine beauty--but everytime he smelt No. 5 the boating accident was always stuck at the back of his head.

  3. Anonymous19:30

    Dear AlbertCAN,

    I would so much rather associate No 5 with a glamourous woman on a burning boat! How fabulous and how Chanel, especially if the scented lady proceeded to save everybody on board. Of course, not galmourizing the trauma and danger at all, but much more Chanel than the public loo.


  4. Alexandra20:24

    Hmmmm, Audrey Tautou for Chanel. Great, I like that. She is sooo...French.
    I remember when I tried Chanel No.5for the first time. I thought that it is just a myth, didn`t expect much, but adored it from the first sniff. It is so beautiful and I`m happy that my skin supports it.

  5. N,

    don't feel bad about it: it happens to lots of people. I blame the air-fresheners and the overuse of familiar best-sellers!
    You can try Liu and Madame Rochas! ;-)

  6. A,

    what a wonderful anecdote! It sounds terribly traumatic, yet also a little glamorous, no? There is some sense of the "deserted island fragrance" mentality about it all, I mean...
    Helleu was a genius, no doubt about it.

  7. N,

    oh yeah...To the point which I am wondering if mr.Helleu did want to present it like that (the memory of scent, the trauma, the artistry, the desert island choice). Or perhaps I am overanalysing what is a gut response from him! (could be)

  8. Alexandra,

    Tautou is all right, although to my mind (and most French people too, I believe), she's not considered a very typical "French face" (long discussion).
    I like the younger approach though and No.5 did need to enter a new era. The commercial was fabulous!

    No.5 is easy to wear, I find. It's even easier in vintage concentrations ;-)Enjoy!!

  9. I like Audrey for No 5, although really I think she is actually far more of a No 19 person- she seems to have that independence. Anyway I like the repositioning. I still don't really like the juice on me though. It's distinctive I will give it that. The boat story is terribly sad but so interesting. Smell is so powerful.

  10. Rappleyea23:22

    Late commenting, but just wanted to say that I'm a huge fan of Miss Tautou. Loved her in A Very Long Engagement and Amelie. Alas, the Chanels *almost* work on me, but not quite, so I wear Guerlain.

  11. Anonymous05:00

    I am very late in commenting, but I just had to enthuse about this post! It has inspired me to rent this movie, as I am a huge fan of stories involving the interplay of free will and fate.

    I also enjoyed your essay on the intertextuality of fragrance. It was brilliant! You are truly the best fragrance blogger around.


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