LONDON, United Kingdom — Last week, over the course of four days, Prada released three short films to promote its Candy L’Eau fragrance. Co-directed by acclaimed Hollywood directors Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, the mini-trilogy — an evocative tale of a pretty Parisian girl caught in a love triangle, set to catchy French retro-pop — quickly spread across the Internet and was picked up by a number of large media outlets. Thus far, over 170,000 viewers have seen the films, as well as a director’s cut and a making-of featurette, on YouTube.
The success of the video series reflects Prada’s solid decision to commission seasoned directors (and hire actual actors) to create a snappy narrative film, a welcome departure from the uninspiring, storyless fashion films — often shot by stills photographers (or their assistants) and based on behind-the-scenes footage captured on the backs of print campaigns — which, unfortunately, have come to typify the genre.
The Candy L’Eau films feature rising French actress Lea Seydoux as a cheeky beauty, courted by two anxious suitors in skinny suits and stylishly wild coiffures. In the first two episodes, the two young men are haplessly vying for the girl’s affection, while in the third segment (a year later) the threesome seems to have settled into a more or less content, albeit unconventional, relationship.
At three and a half minutes, the director’s cut of the film — which joins all three episodes — is longer than most fashion films (which have been shrinking in recent seasons to match short attention spans) but nonetheless manages to engage viewers thanks to a playful storyline, inspired by the new wave classic Jules et Jim, and strong acting. Obvious attention was also paid to lighting, editing and sound, all of which indicates the assured hand of real film directors.
Among other films, Wes Anderson is the revered director of feature-length hits including The Royal Tenenbaums and last year’s Moonrise Kingdom, and the Candy L’Eau trilogy bears some of those films’ trademarks, namely precise compositions, elaborate sets and a quirky plot, driven with unforced comic charm.
Most importantly, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, which cannot be said of most fashion films. Instead, with its breezy, almost offhand, well-paced storytelling — at once retro and of-the-moment — the film taps into a basic human preoccupation with romance, rendered with humour, wit and visual flair.
If only there were more fashion films like this one.