Martin Scorsese’s Bleu de Chanel ad is breathtakingly awful
Campaign: Bleu de Chanel – The Film
Director: Martin Scorsese
By Louise Markey
The Martin Scorsese-directed advertisement for Bleu de Chanel is undoubtedly the most cringeworthy minute of footage ever to be committed to film. It’s so psychologically traumatic to watch, due to its extraordinary naffness, that myself and my housemates scream every time it’s played in a frantic attempt to drown out the audio.
Television perfume ads are famous for being awful. They’re usually filmed and commissioned by people used to working within the constraints of a glossy magazine. A still-image perfume ad in a magazine tends to be a photograph of a breathtakingly beautiful person, Photoshopped far beyond anything resembling reality, wearing the most expensive item of clothing the label produces. The plan is to drive the reader so wild with desire for even a fraction of that beauty that, goddamnit, they’ll just buy the bloody perfume then. It’s a strategy that works: luxury firms make most of their revenue from fragrance and beauty, and the lavishly unprofitable couture lines exist purely to peddle these wares.
However, this same technique is the most ridiculous fail when translated to the moving image; we are all familiar with drawn-out scenes of slow-motion pouting to the soundtrack of a sexy French woman whispering some badly translated nonsense.
So I do commend Chanel on deciding to employ an award-winning film director in an attempt to avoid another one of these crimes-against-advertising. Chanel has an excellent track record in this regard: in 1992, they employed celebrated art director Jean Paul Goude to create arguably the best moving-image perfume ad ever, with a young Vanessa Paradis whistling like a bird in an oversized cage.
This is what Scorsese does:
We open with scenes of French hunk Gaspard Ulliel running frantically after an attractive blonde through the streets of New York. According to The Examiner, this is the character of “Hector”, who “is on a quest to shed the false image thrust upon him and embrace who he truly is”. The next 30 seconds are a montage of scenes of Hector following, filming, spying on, harassing through metal bars, and attempting to force himself on various babes. We get the impression he is a womanising photographer in the style of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up. So far, so cliche. Interspersed among all this are scenes of our heartthrob sitting uncomfortably at press conferences, where the attractive blonde seems to have just asked him a question he can’t, or won’t, answer.
A dramatic pause.
Our protagonist faces his audience, who are now beside themselves with anticipation, leans into the microphones and says:
“I’m not going to be the person I’m expected to be any more.”
And with a stern and accusatory look directly into the camera (as if it is us, the home viewers and potential perfume purchasers, who shamefully have forced him to play up to his image as sex-pest photographer), Hector struts out of the press conference as the walls of the venue collapse behind him.
It is at this moment you realise that A) you have no idea what the hell is going on and B) you are screaming behind a cushion. The sickening earnestness and attempt to weave some sort of lofty philosophical undercurrent into an ad to sell a £56 bottle of perfume is just too much to bear. The tagline – spoken in a predictably husky French accent – is “Be unexpected”. Be unexpected, but make sure you buy this perfume. Well, I think I might just unexpectedly be sick.
London-based Louise Markey’s LF Markey collections are available at quality stockists. Her next show is at Australian Fashion Week in May.
Syndicated at Toronto Standard.