From Martin Scorsese for Armani to David O’Russell for Prada, it seems like all the big Hollywood names are jumping on the fashion film bandwagon. While it may be tempting to think that these fashion meets high cinema relationships must be a match made in heaven, think again. Not all fashion films are made equal and FIB has sorted out the best (creative and beautiful) from the worst (over-blown, over-produced, over-budgeted) and handed out some superlatives for you.
Winner of the Baz Luhrmann Award for Biggest Budget Blowout Goes to…..Baz Luhrmann!
Look, some people may accuse Baz Luhrmann of being nothing more than a truly excellent spender of money who also happens to be a big-name Hollywood director. Far be it for us at FIB to disagree. First there was Romeo and Juliet which to be fair, only cost $14.5 million USD. But then there was the soaring production budget for the lavish musical Moulin Rouge. After that, there was the most expensive Australian film ever made, the $130 million over-blown ode to Australia, titled Australia (which creative genius came up with that title we wonder?). Good ole Baz did manage to rein it in a little for his next film, The Great Gatsby which cost a cool $105 million. But he was back at it again for his stalled Netflix hip-hop musical The Get Down which at $120 million was the most expensive Netflix series ever before being trumped by The Crown.
Yet all this expense is kind of excusable right? These are huge productions which costuming to set design to actor paychecks require big budgets to get right. But what about his fashion ad debut, the 2004 Chanel No. 5 film? Based on the William Wyler film Roman Holiday, the three minute clip reunites Luhrmann with Nicole Kidman and showcases all the typical Luhrmann trademarks – flamboyance, decadence and self-indulgence. In fact, this short ‘film’ was so extravagant that it was billed as the world’s most expensive commercial ever with an estimated budget of a whopping $33 million ($3 million of which was rumoured to go to Nicole Kidman alone). While the film went on to pave the way for big name Hollywood directors’ larger presence in the fashion industry was it really worth the bajillion dollar price tag? You tell us.
Biggest Backfire or Missed Opportunity?
In 2005, Gap commissioned Spike Jonze to create a commercial signifying a new era for the San Francisco-based clothing line. Following successive quarters of declining sales and consumer defections, Gap decided they needed a major remodelling. Enter Spike Jonze, director of offbeat comedies Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Either someone on the Gap marketing team made a major snafu by not doing their research or they simply underestimated what they were getting with Spike Jonze because what they got was not what they expected.
The hilarious “Pardon our Dust” spot fits perfectly with the remodelling concept. Beginning with a quiet day in a very bland Gap store, someone breaks the mind-numbing tedium by knocking a pile of shirts off a shelf. Within a couple of seconds, a mannequin is pushed over and a plastic coat hanger violently snapped in half. The dramatic score ramps up the humour and before you know it things have escalated to all out chaos. Windows are being smashed, motocross racers race up escalators, and a chainsaw-wielding madman hacks apart the building support columns.
We love this ad from the slow beginning to the mounting petty transgressions to the way the camera starts moving frenetically as all hell breaks loose. The peak moment? It’s gotta be when “Suburban Mini-van Driving Soccer Mom” decides to drive right into the store front. The tagline reads “Pardon our dust, the all-new Gap is coming”. It is a wild romp, brilliantly executed and exactly the kind of self-deprecating humour Gap needed to solve its branding crisis. Needless to say, Gap did not see the funny side to the destruction of their store and did not appreciate Spike Jonze’s efforts. The commercial only ran in a few cities for a couple of weeks before Gap pulled the plug. What can we say? It’s an A+ in our books.
Worst Fashion Ad to Also Double as a Casting Call
Some may say that the Michael Bay and Victoria’s Secret team up was a match made in heaven (or should we say hell?) No stranger to action scenes filled with gratuitous panning or close up shots of cleavage, an ad for Victoria’s Secret seems right up his wheelhouse, something he probably could do in his sleep right? And if Victoria’s Secret wanted to pander to the lowest common denominator, well they sure got their man right.
What you think of when you picture Michael Bay is what you are going to get. Entirely predictable. Nothing more and nothing less. So of course the film featured helicopters, motorcycles, explosions and slow-motion shots of millions of scantily clad, leggy supermodels. It’s predictability led some to question (jokingly) whether or not Bay had simply used a compilation of deleted scenes and outtakes from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
In fact should Victoria’s Secret even have paid for this ad? After all, it did double as Bay’s audition and casting call for his next Transformers film. When Bay had his epic falling out with Megan Fox, he simply replaced her with Victoria’s Secret model and star of his advert, Rosie Huntington-Whitely for Transformers: Dark of the Moon the following year. Talk about efficiency.
Clearly Victoria’s Secret were happy with the product as Bay has continued to direct their ads in the intervening years. Will Victoria’s Secret ever take a risk and go for a bolder, less conventional approach and switch up directors? Who are we kidding, he probably has a life time contract with them. We’ll give the next one a pass, thanks.
And the Award For Most David Lynchian Fashion Film Goes To….David Lynch?
The elite fashion houses love David Lynch and no matter which one he is working for, all his fashion films tend to have an indisputably classical Lynchian feel to them. However, we can’t quite shake the feeling that these films are 99 percent David Lynch doing whatever the hell David Lynch wants and throwing in an cursory nod to his employers of the moment.
The Dior “Lady Blue Shanghai” campaign is led by a fifteen minute short film starring Marion Cotillard and directed by David Lynch. It features all the trademarks of classic David Lynch films, empty hotels, long narrow hallways, foreboding music and most importantly, a sense of trepidation and fear that hangs over everything like a pall. The Lady Dior bag appears in a ta-dah! style revelation, literally featuring a bang, burst of light and smoke. The appearance of the bag sparks a rush of memories of a past life in Shanghai, featuring a lover and a blur of lights as they race around the city.
This fever dream of a fashion ad is wildly disorientating as extended pauses between hollow lines of dialogue and ominous fish-eyed close ups of Cotillard’s lovely but frightened face fill the screen. The nightmarish mish-mash of combining old school Shanghai with an obvious modern electronic billboard of Cotillard shilling for Dior adds to the disorientation and hallucinatory experience. In other words, the typical David Lynchian film. The final shot shows Cotillard opening the bag to find a blue rose from the past in it, leading some to question whether or not Lynch already envisaged a film with the rose and simple threw in the bag when Dior opened the chequebook. Which begs the question, was the paycheck really that good, David Lynch? You can get back to us on that one.
If that’s not enough evidence that Lynch will simply shoehorn any fashion product into his aesthetically driven films, see evidence sample number two, the Gucci commercial. If there is one this David Lynch can do better than anyone else, it is making people feel uncomfortable and proves that even the shorter medium of fashion film is no obstacle. Beautiful models in Gucci, check. Swanky hotel that dissolves into dark empty hallways, check. Eerie music and ominous breathing in the background, check. Unsettling, unnerving and uncomfortable is what David Lynch does best and far be it from fashion to stand in his way.
Most Delightful and Zany Fashion Film
The winner here should come as no surprise. Out of all the fashion films directed by Hollywood big shots, Wes Anderson’s film Castello Cavalcanti for Prada seems the most organic. Something about the retro look and stylistic sleekness of Wes Anderson films dovetails well with Prada’s aesthetic. Despite the fact that the only reference to Prada comes in the opening credits and once on the back of a racing suit, it had us eager to head to the nearest store.
Set in an Italian village in September 1955, the eight minute narrative stars Anderson favourite Jason Schwartzman as Cavalcanti, a cocky American race-car driver who crashes his vehicle into a statue of Jesus Christ. Immediately after the crash, he curses “Son of a bitch – it wasn’t my fault – steering wheel’s screwed on backwards!”. After surveying the damage, Cavalcanti hilariously tells the villages to “stick (the car) back in the gutter where it belongs” and to “give (him) a shot of the local hooch.” The peak Wes Anderson moment comes when Cavalcanti coincidentally sits down next to his “great-great grand-uncle Michelangelo” and kisses him, exclaiming “we’re ancestors!”
Full of snappy dialogue with a splash of colour and offbeat quirkiness, this is classic Anderson. The richness in colour palette (deep red and yellows) and dramatic camera panning all point to Anderson’s directorial vision and commitment to style. He even manages to weave in an element of nostalgia to complete the checklist of Anderson trademarks. With a referential richness to it, the short-film also doubles as a loving tribute to Italian film-making great, Federico Fellini. Prada were onto a winner here and despite the blink and you’ll miss it reference to the fashion house, it appears that a little film-making prestige and Wes Anderson visual splendour goes a long way. We give it a 9/10 for delightfulness.
Look out for FIB’s Feature Film on Hollywood does Fashion coming soon!