The assault that the city of New York has been under for the last week, perpetrated by 5’11, birdlike amazons, garbed in freakish war paint and extravagant, yet bizarrely soft battle armor, is now over. I speak of course of Fashion Week New York which ended yesterday, one of the 4 international fashion weeks which rule the industry and establish the direction the fashion world will take in the coming year. Trends for Spring/Summer 2011 were displayed and in honor of this Short of the Week is celebrating one of fashion’s biggest recent trends—the fashion short film.
At SotW we’ve never been snobs about branded content and one of the things I’ve been most excited about of late is the fashion industry collectively jumping into the short film game headfirst. However the industry has arrived creatively at the destination of short film from opposing directions interestingly enough.
On the one hand is Spectacle with a capital “S”. Large designer houses lead by Chanel and Dior are pairing beautiful movie stars with big-name directors like David Lynch, Martin Scorcese and Guy Ritchie to create short films with all the production value and glamor of those director’s feature films. This has resulted in lots of positive advertising, web buzz as well some absolutely gorgeous and stylish footage—all the better for the sprinkle of Hollywood glamor on top.
But in the other direction the recent cross-pollination of photography with videography—exemplified the enormous popularity of DSLR cameras and and the impressively fine work being made using them— has lead to many atmospheric short films; generally helmed by photographers affiliated with the fashion industry who are branching out into video. These often play at runway shows rather than being the mega-multiplatform events the large star-studded productions are, but can be more interesting for the freedom and level of expression they allow.
In this two-part fashion film roundup, I will share a selection of the most notable fashion films in each of these two veins. I watch a lot of these films, but that doesn’t mean you should. Both categories experience their fair share of dud entries, and in both genres narrative is often considered superfluous. Polarizing reactions to individual shorts are only to be expected—indeed these are not uniformly recommendations as some of these entries I am blasé about. Instead these are the films that made the “biggest splash” in 2010 so to speak, so make sure to read the blurbs to get my true opinion. Today in part one I’ll focus on the big celeb-fueled affairs. Click the pictures to view.
Martin Scorcese—Bleu de Chanel:
We first mentioned the rumors of this collaboration back in January when reviewing Prada’s short film First Spring, the first really big fashion film of 2010. Now it has finally arrived, premiering late last month, and before even watching it anticipation had turned to disappointment. Only 1 min long? Truly an advertisement.These star studded shorts still do tend to relate more to advertising then than to short films. Chanel resurrected the modern fashion “event” film in 2004 with its high profile spot directed by Baz Luhrmann and his Moulin Rouge star Nicole Kidman, and when asked if it was an advertisement, Chanel famously stated that it must be a short film, because Baz Luhrmann did not do advertisements!
If we set aside questions of taxonomy however, this film, for the fragrance Bleu de Chanel, is practically perfection. Scorcese deserves credit for tackling an actual story in his 1 min—a prescient and current tale of a celebrity finding love and facing scandal that is simultaneously clear-eyed about the current media environment and a yet a fantasy. There is an incredible economy in his storytelling that is evident from scene 1, in which the setting of his scandal is projected onto the news conference wall as evidence against him. A really nice move. Shot back in January, I wonder how much the Tiger woods scandal influenced the project. How many of us when confronted by his news conference, wondered what we would have said in his shoes? This is a real winner for Chanel and Scorcese—a clever story of confidence and iconoclasm, which is a lovably ironic message coming from an advert.
Frank Miller—Gucci Guilty:
Let’s get the other short advertisment out of the way, Frank Miller’s spot for Gucci. This just recently premiered during the MTV VMA’s a few days ago. Selling sex and cars along with perfume, the short furthers the comic-inspired visual styling of Miller, but simultaneously confirms the fears of those who hated The Spirit. The piece is all style with no substance, just a girl remembering something. Scorcese did better in creating actual drama. However this one you can watch in 3-D!
David Lynch—”Lady Blue Shanghai” for Dior:
Dior stole the Chanel formula of pairing a big-time starlet with the director who made them famous in last year’s Lady Noire Affair, and continued to up the artistic ante with this, the latest in the muli-part “Lady” series.
These films have been notable for their star power and high stylization, and notorious for their cryptic, “there is no there, there” plots. However they are heretofore the most ambitiously narrative-driven of fashion films yet seen, in their own way much more avant garde than say, last year’s Chanel film pairing Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tatou. David Lynch has a history with fashion, directing several famous Calvin Klein fragrance spots in the 80′s, and more recently a commercial for Gucci. The director has a lot of devotees, and this film got a lot of buzz on the internet when It came out in May, but I didn’t feature it here until now because a. I’m not a devotee of Lynch and b. I didn’t like the short.
The film follows Ms. Cotilliard to a Shanghai hotel. In her room music is playing without a conceivable source and suddenly a mysterious Dior handbag lands in the middle of the room. Freaked out, she calls management but is able through flashback to arrive at a supernatural explanation for the bag’s presence.
My complaints upon first viewing were simple: the video-like production value, similar to Inland Empire rubbed me the wrong way, the modern day ghost story was empty of development, and at 16min the film was several minutes too long. However in rewatching it recently, I think I was unduly hard on the film. Part of my complaint about the production value is tied up in a type of snobbery against video-looking productions. This is generally a supremely valuable protective reflex to a person like me that watches a lot of random video on the web, but in retrospect I can admire Lynch staying true to his recent explorations of more naturalistic, video-like camera work, and can admire Dior for letting him do it. Its is impressive how good Marion Cotilliard continues to look in this film despite not being filmed as though she was in a moving magazine cover shoot, like in Lady Noire Affair. Cranking down the shutter speed in video however is a cheezball effect beyond rehabilitation at this point, I won’t budge on that front. And while development of the ghost love-story may be lacking, Ms. Cotilliard really sells her fragile, emotional vulnerability in a way the imbues the film with the heft it might otherwise lack.
My final verdict is that this is an interesting but still flawed film. However I love the ambition of all parties involved. If you love Lynch, you’ve seen this already, and if you don’t, you can probably skip. However if intrigued, give the film a try.
Guy Ritchie—Dior Homme:
The “Lady” series pitched handbags, but this one is for the guys. Guy Ritchie and Jude Law team up for a preposterously cool 4 min of amazingly good looking people shot seductively. A take on the good girl/bad girl dichotomy this is a sexy short to move some cologne. Whereas David Lynch’s film maybe went too far in actually being a short film, I think this one has been a great success for its ability to be a short film, yet accentuate the commercial leanings that these works inevitably must satisfy. The Prada short film featured earlier might be the year’s best fashion film for combining art/product commercialism, where this is the best at commercialism/art, if that makes sense. Highly recommended.
Thanks for reading this post. Be on the lookout tomorrow next week for Part 2, which delves into the artistic, photographer-influenced short fashion films of 2010.