Thursday, July 12, 2012

Natalie Portman for newest Miss Dior commercial: Revisiting Black Swan & La Dolce Vita

Natalie Portman after becoming the face of the ~recently renamed and revamped~ Miss Dior (previously Cherie) fragrance in a commercial that drew upon every French cliché possible (little black dress, check; pout and sunglasses à la Nouvelle Vague, check; romantic affair in Louis XVI decors, check) is turning now to other inspirations; or rather the people at LVMH do: American ones, such as her hit role in Black Swan, and Italian, as in the classic of classics by Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita (incidentally the name of another Dior perfume!) There the truly voluptuous (especially as compared to slight Natalie) Anita Ekberg, starring as the Swedish-American actress, is frolicking dramatically in the Fontana di Trevi.

What's up with Dior using every bit of cinema history, especially lately, to promote their products? Are they really that out of new, original ideas? I understand when a movie is making a meta-comment on another movie, such as Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) recreating the frustration of the original actress in another heroine's (Catherine's) frustration with people and things in her own life and her childlike desire to infuse all with fun and love; but in a perfume commercial? That just comes across as lazy...
Natalie is fine on her own, you don't need to turn her into the "copy" of another actress, people!

Besides this "homage" comes as a totally misguided point, in my opinion: The Trevi Fountain scene comes as the apogee of an -at heart-frustrating night between Marcello Mastroyianni and Ekberg, showcasing the realization of Mastroianni being a victim, of searching endlessly for happiness which won't come; not this way at any rate. He idealizes Sylvia, the character played by Ekberg, into what is escaping him; the woman, no, the Woman, the out of reach mystique which would make him happy if only...
But glamorous and passive-agressive to men as this might seem (always a sort of secret fantasy for some women), in La Dolce Vita Sylvia isn't happy either. She howls back at dogs. She gets slapped. When she anoints Marcello, there is a mirror-scene where a parallel with the Virgin Mary is made, another woman thought of being capable to bestow happiness by just being and ending up disappointing the men who put hope in her. The dawn of that night just brings the shattering of hope...
How is this a favorable thought for actually buying a perfume, the premium product of escapism, especially a perfume that stands for girly fun and playfulness, the one which a few short years ago championed stuffing yourself with macaroons, dressing in all colors of the rainbow and bicycling through Paris letting off red balloons ? Is the concept of Miss Dior shifting dramatically, to follow the haughtiness of the new formula itself?

But then, it finally came to me: iconic as the images from the Fontana di Trevi scene may be (not a single soul hasn't seen them printed/uploaded someplace, they're part of our pop culture semiotics), I am willing to be that the viewers who have watched the original Italian film are far fewer...Could it be -horror of horrors- that even some at the creative team haven't really watched the film more carefully? Are they confusing glamour with happiness?

Perhaps I'm overanalyzing and everything is about the image pure and simple without no subtext behind it. According to the Daily Mail:"Standing in the middle of a fountain swathed in a stunning black strapless silk couture gown, the star [Natalie Portman] looked gorgeous and graceful as did several poses for the camera. The new advert is centered around the famous fountain scene from Frederico Fellini 'La Dolce Vita'. With her arm stretched out into the air towards the sky, Natalie looked dramatic and dreamy against the backdrop of the picturesque setting". Right.

pic collage via


  1. Anonymous15:48

    "Are they really that out of new, original ideas?"


  2. Anonymous15:52

    "Is the concept of Miss Dior shifting dramatically, to follow the haughtiness of the new formula itself?"

    Again, yes. Yes, yes, yes. Don't you remember that Miss Dior Cherie is Cherie no more, as they put it she's grown up and is now "a woman who loves"?


  3. Anonymous02:50

    Not regarding this particular entry, but relating to your blog overall: you are a pretentious, verbose and terribly twee writer. Not good. At all Someone has to tell you.

  4. I would guess that they are trying to hark back to a time pre-Galliano, reestablishing their reputation before it was sullied by a mean spirited junkie racist.

  5. With reference to the comment directly above me, it is always easy to be rude and spiteful when you hide behind the mask of anonymity. This is blog is one of the top perfume blogs on the web, providing an invaluable resource on all aspects of perfumery, from chemistry to marketing with solid reviews of novelties, trends and materials. If you don't like the writing, then bloody well don't read it, you obviously do not know your arse from your elbow.

  6. Anon #1,

    I guess trying an already tested recipe is less risky. I can't believe they're doing it over and over and over again though.

  7. Anon #2/L,

    indeed they have repositioned the Miss Dior (formerly Cherie) product. Obviously there's something in what you say! A pity though. It was great fun while it lasted, even if I never warmed up to the fragrance personally.

  8. Stephen,

    that's an excellent point which I hadn't thought of to be honest; there was lots of damage done with the Galliano incident and some damage control should occur. I guess this whole "golden standard old cinema" stuff is re-esyablishing class. If only....

  9. Stephen,

    thanks for coming to my "rescue". And of course for your vote of confidence!
    Not that I would waste any breathing moment to dignify that with an answer.

    See, even if anonymous, the more one talks, the more they reveal themselves ;-) Plus, you know what they say, you've really made it when you start getting hate mail.


  10. Miss Heliotrope11:23

    I wish people who complain about others' writing would check their punctuation...why is it such a cliche?

  11. Heya,
    Maybe the symbolism goes even deeper. Natalie breathing true happiness, and thus new life, into a scene that was once reflective of only unrealised pleasures. She is so lovely that she could.
    I love that someone called you three things that I would not associate with you at all.
    Portia xx

  12. C,

    ah, no plural: it's just one person. Wishes there were more.
    I guess there are people who can't make any constructive criticism. It's a skill, you know.

  13. Portia,

    that's a good point! Hadn't though of that at all. She is a very fetching young lady and with the chops to support this. In a way they really picked well; maybe that's why it makes me a little sad to not see something "wow" coming from them in the way of originality.

    Heh, thanks! :-)


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