Where did she come from? where am I going?
Life is a journey
Outside is just inside…out
Peace is Love. Love is war. War is Peace.
Neel Kolhatkar, an Australian comedian, has created a small film called How to make a Fragrance Commercial that celebrates the increasingly ludicrous genre of the Fragrance or Perfume commercial. It is a small pleasure to view.
We have the use of the abstracted journey – infinite; never ending; circular. Run through with a yearning of some sort. Add one very pretty girl with a form of hair Tourrette’s – incapable of resisting running her hand across or through her silken mane for more than a second.
And the insanity of gibberish of course: crack induced riddles tripping the enigmatic light fantastic. Or bollocks if you will.
Lee Mack has also celebrated the bollocks of the language and accent of fragrance commercials, much to our amusement.
And the joke is not lost on us – as hundreds of thousands of us it would seem enjoy looking at and agreeing with their world view.
BUT. Someone has to be taking this seriously. Someone has to be buying this pap. Why would someone otherwise invest that much time energy money and hand picked, studio preened talent to make them, again and again.
I hold my hands up – I did go Ooohh! when I saw the one with Marilyn et al morphed in to the ad via super whizz bang SFX computer imaging. But only once. Not that anyone cares. If anyone gets into trouble they can always point to the Chanel No5 piece having 12M+ views. I thank you.
There is also an element of infantilisation going on here to a certain degree. These commercials are used on us like shiny jewels slung from a music mobile hung above our ‘cot’ – the plinky-plinky music, like a child’s music box confection played out to the mesmeric movement of shiny things that we can reach for. Ooosshhy boooshy boooshy booo. Who’s a beautiful boy then. It’s Christmas. Ohhhh. Shiny.
Shiny is beautiful. Shiny is reassuring. While Jude Law drives through stunning landscapes in a stunning car everything is alright. Terrorist threats and world hunger simply disappear as if by magic. Community fracture, eating disorders and fear of unemployment dissipate in a diffusion of citrus, rose otto and bergamot mist.
But, just to be a grinch for a moment longer, in a time of austerity, collapsing brand budgets, and fashion houses and brands going bankrupt all over the place, all of the time, how do they get away with it?
How does the Brand creative director get away with it? And the Director for that matter? In budgetary heist terms it is, let it be said, a stroke of genius: an Oceans Eleven of Marketing. At no point is the endeavour ever really intended to get beyond a luvy fest, extended camping holiday with 3 weeks of post production catering attached. That a commercial comes out at the end is frankly a miracle.
Everything is in the script:
Open on a set of Long Haul aeroplane tickets.
Cue music track rerecord by someone the writer slept with at Burning Man
Light refracts through sun flare. We sense someone: famous: really really famous.
We see grade Hollywood A Lister in frame come into close up and focus – in a state of distress, the Malibu surf framing their pained expression.
Camera pans out across their shoulder and the bonnet of a classic XK 180, parked at the coast roadside behind them.
On its polished bench seat we see a hand crafted hold-all in exquisitely turned leather and open white stitching with polished lalique clasps.
We see the bag is stuffed with the film production budget blocked and bound in various denominations.
We see the long shadow of the Director’s new art department ‘squeeze’ fall across the driver’s seat. The keys in the ignition scream TURN ME ON.
We cut to cool city or landscape at dusk/night. A car – our car – is stationary outside a plain ‘edgy’ doorway: a man in a long coat grey hat smoking a cigarette stands beside it half in shadow.
We blink; eyelids close – to black – and open. More flared light.
We are inside a bar. It is buzzing: with the Art Director’s boyfriend and their close NYC facebook friends.
Cut to enigmatic pack shot.
You have yourself a Fragrace Advert.
And talk me through the obtuse re-recording of karaoke-famous musical tracks? One of these recordings is of such high camp, I would strongly recommend having an oxygen tank and some DVT socks to hand.
I’m thinking of course of the music in the Chanel No5 piece with Giselle: a tangential narrative punctuated by cards with lyrics written with epigrammatic aplomb and enigmatically distributed.
In this film there is of course a random child (who surely should be put into care given the elegant speed with which her parents seem to nip off to far flung places in pursuit of something different at the drop of a hat. Thankfully, in the full length version there is a Grannie/Nanny left to fend for the child – the least we’d expect from a family with such an expansive beach house: staff.)
Now that track: The One That I Want. Lo Fang. Breathy. Sparse. Jazz. Art.
Yes: it’s a re-record. And re-records have been very recherché for a few years now. Since 2008, everyone and their transgender partner is doing it, inspired by re-records of famous tracks by highly individual, mainly female singers for John Lewis et al. (They couldn’t resist going Half The World Away with Aurora this Christmas.)
But the Lo Fang track is knowing in a very different way. It adds a level of high camp that more mortal creative directors and producers could only dream of. Taking a track that would happily grace a Will & Grace house party and then raise the camp bar further by art jazzing it is audacious indeed.
I am not sure how anyone could better this on the camp-o-meter.
So I wonder what next? Perhaps they will have to go the other way. Perhaps we will get really, really high camp songs re-recorded with brutal street grit.
Rocky Horror’s Sweet Transvestite could be covered by The Streets. And come to think of it, D12 could do a storming version of Let It Go from Frozen. So, there is definitely some more room for manoeuvre in there – a few more rungs of insanity to climb before we run out of puff in the music department.
Now what of the journey? Part of me desperately wants the exquisite wide shot of the beautiful car crossing the bridge to the city in the Chanel No 5 ad to be interrupted by the highly irritating Sat. Nav. saying “At the next junction, turn left, then turn right, and follow the ring road back to your child as they are currently playing with an electric iron in the infinity pool.”
With all this enigmatic driving around to no real end (even Jonny Depp’s at it) there must be a probability calculation on the back of a napkin somewhere that tells us when and where they might all collide?
Given that driving is so central to many of these commercials, perhaps there is a Peage in Fragrance Film Land somewhere where it all comes together – a place where, if you parked up with a sandwich and a thermos for long enough, you’d have the pleasure of watching a caravanserai of some of the most beautiful cars in the world driven by some of the most highly paid actors stream past. (Who needs the Mille Miglia.)
I can just see them arriving at the Peage gate and, on realizing they do not have Telepeage, rooting in their oh-so-gorgeous bag for a handful of ‘change’ (it would have to be a fist of exotic coins; cast with distracted elegance – there’s no cool Slo Mo moment to be had in popping your carte VISA in a gnarled plastic slot – a sexual metaphor perhaps but no filmic opportunity).
And then, as quickly as they arrive, they are through the Peage, all driving off in different directions to continue the eternal journey.
Maybe this meeting point might create a whole new dimension of Fragrance Ad.
Perhaps if we laddered back, one of those breath taking crash reverses up into the heavens; into the atmosphere above (and god knows theres an industrial quantity of very expensive atmosphere to ladder through), we would reveal that Fragrance Film Land is in fact a sort of board game of life – a Snakes and Ladders meets Monopoly of circular and inter-related narratives criss-crossing at various points across multiple terrains and contexts – by/in/on/above/beneath an Alpine tunnel, Malibu beach house, NYC studio, Parisian rooftop, Roman side street or Utah dirt road, at sunset/sunrise/Spring/Fall/Christmas/Lunar Eclipse.
Maybe we could gamify Fragrance Film Land? A sort of Farmville meets Mario Kart for perfume. Choose your character and vehicle. Choose your eternal circular yearning journey. Choose your mood/season/context. Choose your re-record soundtrack. Bingo. We’re off.
And the pedal hits the metal. Chanel 5. Black Ops. Available for PS3.
Now that would be worth switching on for.