Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
David Lynch has dipped into the world of advertising more than once. His ads for Calvin Klein’s Obsession, for example, were lush black and white glamour shoots featuring Benicio del Toro and Heather Graham. (Before Graham appeared in Twin Peaks.) Now Lynch has directed Marion Cotillard in Lady Blue Shanghai, a sixteen-minute film/ad for Dior.
This is the third in a series of long-form ads that features Cotillard for Dior. (The first two were made by Olivier Dahan, Cotillard’s La Vie en Rose director, and Jonas Akerlund.) If nothing else, because Lynch so frequently develops long working relationships with actors, I like it as a promise for further collaboration.
Here you won’t see the smoky, monochromatic worlds of Lynch’s older ads. This is Lynch in video mode, though these images are a bit more overtly colorful and polished than the more grimy footage of Inland Empire. There are a couple of great moments, and a sequence with blurry, smeared high-speed photography that has a lovely, almost painted look.
Overall the script, direction, music and many visual motifs are pure, unchanging Lynch. The director did the music with Dean Hurley, and operated one camera under cinematographer Justyn Field. Is there also a nod in the middle to In the Mood For Love? (Though that takes place in Hong Kong and Singapore, not Shanghai.)
Yet I’m not quite sold this one. There’s definitely an air of the absurd, and while you can see that Lynch loves glamour (as ever) the way the handbag is initially lit and drenched in smoke plays, to me, fairly tongue in cheek. But elsewhere moments I think are meant to be sincere come off a bit juvenile or stagey. Crucially, at the end, it doesn’t really feel as if it hangs together, even as an impression, or a dream.
Lynch explained the origin of the project to the Financial Times:
They called me up and said, ‘Would you like to make a short film for the internet? You can do anything you want, you just need to show the handbag, the Pearl Tower and some old Shanghai.’