Roman Polanski’s Prada ad is actually sexy

Campaign: A Therapy
Client: Prada
Director: Roman Polanski

Prada - Ben Kingsley -

By Christopher Michael

There’s something a bit creepy about Roman Polanski making any kind of film relating to slightly-atypical sexytime. But if you leave those reservations at the oak-panelled door, Polanski’s new ad – starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley, and screened today to a surprised audience at Cannes – is one of the best advertiser-paid short films yet made.

The advertiser in question is Prada. But whereas another legendary film director, Martin Scorsese, interpreted his recent invitation to advertise a major fashion house (Chanel) as an opportunity to wade self-indulgently through some utterly ridiculous Euro-piffery, Polanski has produced a wry little gem that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The story follows Bonham Carter as she swans into psychiatrist Kingsley’s office in an exotic purple fur coat and proceeds to self-analyse (“I loved Daddy, but his money was a curse”). Kingsley, meanwhile, gets distracted, charmed and eventually utterly transported by that fur. I’ve never myself felt the desire to wear ladies’ clothes, but by the end of the short I was wishing I had a floor-length animal pelt of my own to give myself luxuriant hugs in.

The casting is inspired, obviously. Bonham Carter has been steamrolling the field for the past couple years. (Can you steamroll a field?) Every role has seemed like one she was born to inhabit. And Kingsley’s way of balancing anally precise facial hair against raging submerged desires is unparalleled. The script is subtle and smart, the tagline is cleverly used (“Prada suits everyone”). Best of all, it pokes fun at the kind of people who wear extravagant couture pieces while acknowledging that there’s a part of us that wishes we could show up at brunch in a Dries Van Noten three-piece with naked-lady cufflinks and a full box of Romeo y Julietas. For example.

I recently argued that everyone needs to stop fawning over Wes Anderson’s car ads for being so supposedly crammed with integrity. In promo interviews for Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson totally agreed:

Does he get irritated with diehard fans? ‘No. That I love.’ Even their disappointed blogs criticising him for making adverts? ‘Rightly so!’ Anderson exclaims with a mischievous grin – on the side of the bloggers. He quite likes an advert he made recently for Sony – ‘They should pay me for saying that. But otherwise I agree with those people. It isn’t right to be doing these commercials. But you know, I got paid more to do a couple of car commercials than I did to do two years on this film.’

Polanski claims this is an “anti-ad”. I’ve got a better term: “ad”. Fundamentally, there’s no difference between Wes Anderson praising a car and Polanski praising a coat. Somehow, though, Polanski has dodged Anderson’s main problem with those Honda Azeri spots: namely, style robbed of substance. Maybe it’s having a couple of minutes instead of 30 seconds. Maybe it’s obliquely mocking Prada itself. Maybe it’s the actors, or the script. Whatever the reason, this much is clear: in the battle of famous auteurs making short ads, Roman Polanski has just steamrolled the field.


  1. BrendaKilgour wrote:

    Mainly, what Polanski has dodged is the Los Angeles court that convicted him of raping a child nearly 40 years ago. For Prada to subsidize this wizened cretin, and for Bonham Carter and Kingsley to participate, is despicable. Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe how wrong this project is from start to finish.

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