Thursday, October 16, 2014

The One That I Want: Gisele Performs for Baz Luhrmann in Chanel No.5 Commercial

Every new commercial for Chanel No.5 is a small idyll and the reason isn't very hard to see: we're talking about the perfume industry's most sacred totem. The amount of ink and gigabytes spent to write about No.5 (and the whole Chanel mythos) is spilling forth and my cup filleth. But still I was left sort of mesmerized upon watching the latest Chanel No.5 video commercial, directed by Aussie maverick & iconoclast Baz Luhrmann (who might possibly never surpass his Romeo & Juliet 1990s film adaptation, but who's interesting and relevant all the same).

The credits come full circle as Luhrmann had directed the 2004 commercial starring a fledgingly scary-looking at the time (notice the eyes) Nicole Kidman as "a dancer" (but really a celebrity) who pushes away Rodrigo Santoro (then becoming famous through his participation in 300) in what was an almost bankrupting filming for the French brand of luxury goods. The couture gowns designed by Karl Lagerfeld, the jewelry, the body suit and high heel pumps, the chauffeured limos, the skyscraper views, the dancing routines, the red carpet exit, the Debussy music…

Luhrmann doesn't really cut down on budget for the new Chanel No.5 commercial for 2014 and again uses a well known male actor to his feminine heroine, the giga-super-model Gisele, this time Game of Thrones' Michel Huisman. In fact this is the first time that the heroine in those commercials doesn't shy away from a man, but seeks him out.
But what really stands out is the genius use of music, Lo Fang's extra slow (like, 5 times slower than normal) cover of The One That I Want, the famous Grease song that vindicated a generation or two.

Even though I was initially skeptical on the choice of Gisele standing as the face of this iconic French perfume, when it was first announced, this was mainly because she doesn't embody any of the cliches that we come to associate with either Chanel (brunette, small framed, very smart but quirky looking) or the French "chic" (lots of simple black & white, Cleopatra-cut bobs, red lipstick and a spattering of rather unhealthy habits). But seeing the film, I can't deny that apart from a couple rather "void" gros plans at her face on the surf board, I find myself convinced.

Of course I disagree with Lurhmann that Gisele embodies the multi-tasking character of Coco Chanel (a much more manipulative and sharply street-smart woman, what in Greek we call "καπάτσα"), but she looks good (in not only gorgeous-gams-and-hair way, but also convincing in her anxiousness during role playing). Additionally the fact that the director and scripting didn't get her to speak any lines is clever; why shatter the perfect image? It's all played through direction, something that shows very well in the 3-minute long film (shorter snippets of 30 and 60 seconds will play on TV screens during the countdown to Christmas).

Lurhmann, a man known for his grandiloquence, also makes use of some personal leitmotifs: the Queensboro bridge driving-through shot which he used in his Nicole Kidman commercial for No.5, his The Great Gatsby and now for the latest Chanel commercial, for one. To Baz it's a shot out of Fitzgerald's novel that suggests inner turnmoil, much like the Brooklyn bridge stands out in filming as a symbol of faith in industrialization (or even the unification of America, such as in Atlantis poem by Hart Crane).

 The commercial of Chanel No.5 featuring Gisele isn't as dreamy as the Audrey Tautou Chanel commercial (who unsurprisingly did embody French cuteness to a T), which had been directed by Jeanne Pierre Jeunet, but it's rather charming all the same. For instance, I absolutely love the clever association of "chills" in the lyrics to the water bubbles shown and the famed zing of aldehydes on the top perfume notes of this most classic floral aldehydic fragrance. And I also smile watching the very cute mother & daughter spraying a cloud of perfume in the air ritual]. The Chanel commercial, especially for something as timless and "old" is better mannered than Dior's latest J'Adore 2014 commercial (which basically told us off if we romanticize any sort of timelessness). Assuredly a step into the right direction after the catastrophe of sanctioning that Brad Pitt commercial (and patching things up last season with a Marilyn tape transcript). Well done Chanel!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: 
The most incredible Chanel No.5 commercial ever is from 1982
Chanel No.5 Through the Years: Iconography and Advertising
Clips of old Chanel No.5 commercials
Collective PerfumeShrine Posts on Chanel No.5 (scroll)


  1. I saw the commercial yesterday, while waiting for "Broadchurch" to begin on Spanish TV... I didn't like it. I don't know if my problem is the choice of Gisele, or the music or what. Maybe it's that my favourite Chanel 5 ad is one from de 90s (the one with Fats Domino singing "I don't want to put the world on fire") and after that one, the rest have been blah for me, in spite the megastars from Hollywood, like Kidman, or the lovely French actresses like Tatou.

  2. Mimi Gardenia18:57

    Hello Elena !
    I absolutely loved the new commercial and frankly after the Brad Pitt disaster and working poor Marilyn still after her death ..anything would be better. I am totally in love with the Lo fang version of the Grease song ... the whole thing gave me ' the chills' indeed .

  3. Anonymous20:46

    Didn't like the ad at all. Agree that the spray in the air with the daughter was charming, but I also noticed Gisele doesn't spray any perfume on herself. And that made e realize what I dislike about the commercial -- it in no way makes me think that the heroine *wears* Chanel No 5 or that the man is remembering her scent. All I see in the end is bland-model-face.

    -- Lindaloo

  4. Back to big budget. Love the Chanel surfing gear - we need surfer dudes to wear this ...

    That said, I can't help but think that advertisements should be short, and and not be called movies. I assume this will come in a short TV version, it will be interesting to see what will stay in then.

  5. MJ,

    Oh that is an 80s advertisement with the Ink Spots (covering the song) and those are unsurpassable. I have stopped comparing with those because we're not going to get Helleu back from the grave...worse luck! Those were times when imagination ruled the roost instead of recognizable faces (like nowadays).
    Of course everything seems blah in comparison!! Agree 100%

    In regards to the latest, the Tautou is the clear winner for me, over both this one or the Kidman one (which I found rather ridiculous and prefer the Gisele one over that one). But after Pitt and the rushed patch-up with Marilyn, this looks infinitely better.

    You can watch the "I don't want to set the world on fire" and see my commentaryon this link.

  6. Mimi,

    long time no see, thanks for dropping by!

    Yup, my thoughts exactly. The new film is so much better after all that disaster job with Pitt and the rushed attempt to patch things up by bringing Marilyn back from the grave.
    Still, we need something more "fantasy", less reality, I suppose. If we have someone as recognizable as Gisele we tend to think of her as someone we can't transpose ourselves over, so it feels a bit "off" (and not only because she's so perfect).

  7. Lindaloo,

    that's en excellent point!! Hadn't given it any thought.

    I suppose it's to make peace with the "it smells too much like perfume crowd" who want something lighter and at the same time something iconic too. Hard to reconcile the two, eh? I thought so.

  8. M,

    ha ha ha!! Eager to see that myself.

    The "film" will be broken to 30 and 60 sec spots for public airing. 3 minutes on air costs an arm and a leg! They can't possibly air that. They're filming for prestige.

    It's certainly a very big budget. Honestly, I could have made do without some of the props (the minimal villa, the bridge driving that required helicopters to shoot....), what matter is mostly the story and the fantasy. This is rather nice on story (looks credible), not so great on fantasy.

  9. Solanace10:38

    That surfboard is pretty awesome! I love the beginning of the commercial, the raw energy, the airiness in it. But the mascara bleeding man chasing thing... Call me crazy, but I'd really love it with the man watching her surfing, leaving, say, for work, and she kind of ignoring it, like a normal, balanced person. The man chase, and specially the tears, killed the strong character I was digging. (Love the car, though.) Giselle, of course, has to remain shut. She must be very smart, somehow, to take care of herself so well, but that does not come across when she speaks, not even in Portuguese!

  10. Mimi Gardenia17:00

    Dear Elena
    I always read your blog even though I have been v quiet lately and I read your Fragrantica articles as well .You are No 1 on my bookmark list.:)
    Gisele - as pretty as she is - does not strike me as a the Face of Chanel No 5.
    But in totality , I do love the movie .
    Love Mimixxx

  11. What a load of waffle!
    See , this is why Bazz will not get a Oscar !
    He does not know the word - Edit!!!
    On and on it goes in its dreary little world and I would have thought old Chanel No.5 was a Ozonic if you take that ad to heart! LOL
    When I spend mucho $$ for a French perfume I want Chic and Snappy not wet and sappy ! LOL

  12. annemarie08:14

    I'm happy to admit I loved the Kidman ad for its unashamed romance, and the Tatou for its exoticism. The latest worries me a bit because of its presentation of the three-way tug between relationship, family and career: I'd rather not be reminded, thanks all the same, having known that awful dilemma myself (the relationship lost).

    The Tatou ad is my favourite because of they way it links the sexual spark between the characters with the perfume itself. As Lindaloo points out, we don't get that all in the new ad.

  13. Solanace,

    excellent points all of them.

    To be honest there's something I don'/t get in the story, but I might be thick :-O

  14. Mimi,

    thank you so much for being a loyal reader, it's a real honor.

    I kinda agree that Gisele is too well known as a model to be the person we can attache to Chanel no.5. The clip is lovely, but there is a bit of non connection between face-perfume-use. Hmmm....

  15. M,

    hahahaha, I hope they never again have Pitt recite ridiculous cliches. He can act, that's for sure, but he needs a good script too.

    The Oscar nod is not terribly important: Oscar winning directors vote for other directors so how reliable can it be? Welles never got an Oscar, right? But Baz is probably too megalomaniac to really make something subtle. Then again, without megalomania one can't have vision.

    You know, the problem I feel is what a more perceptive reader said: there is no connection with the perfume!

  16. AMC,

    very perceptive, yes, I agree with you and Lindaloo. In the end it could be an advertisement for a car or a surfboard or a drink. It doesn't matter really, so the connection with the perfume is lost.

    LOVE the way you describe the Tautou ad. It was indeed great.

  17. Not really what I would connect with the French chic, but still better than Brad. To my ming, Giselle is still the face of D&G The One. How come they didn't think of using this song? It would fit perfectly!

    1. Very good point, Ksenija! And welcome aboard the Perfume Shrine. :-)


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