“Lady Blue Shanghai” (2010)

There’s a new David Lynch movie out there (which you can view in its entirety either from the vodpod on the right side of this page, or by just clicking here). Seeing as how I’ve seen pretty much every movie he’s made, I felt obligated to post about it here. Lady Blue Shanghai is a sixteen minute high-def video commissioned by Christian Dior to showcase some new handbag they’re selling (for about $2,000). For the man who hates product placement in cinema, but also is honest about why he chooses to make commercials, I think this is an interesting choice. Lynch has some previous experience filming shorter ads, for the likes of other fashionista types Calvin Klein and Gucci, as well as for cigarettes and video games. All of these previous films were for-hire projects that clearly had something to sell (actually identifying the product with the advertisement varies with each, obviously). This new film is no exception, except it is clearly longer-form (16 minutes) and intended for viewing only online (as opposed to television).
I hesitate to lump disparate projects together, but this seems to be a fairly new type of “genre”, if you can even call it that: the long-form, internet advertisement. Of course, this type of film-making isn’t exclusive to the Internet, but this medium of delivery is interesting; giving well-established artists/filmmakers the flexibility to create something of their own that also attempts to showcase a consumer product. Martin Scorsese‘s wine commercial homage to Alfred Hitchock, Key to Reserva (2007), springs to mind as an exemplar here. I’m not sure what I have to say here other than to point out the obviousness that advertising is just as much an art-form as narrative filmmaking, though I agree with Lynch that the way in which the two intersect is important. His idea that product placement “putrifies” the art is a noble one. I would like to know if he considers the commercial in-and-of-itself, which I guess is grounded in such putrification, a lesser art or even an art form at all….

SO, on to some specific thoughts on the Lynch film: It’s nice to see a new face in the Lynch universe; Marion Cotillard (apparently ‘the face of Dior’ across several of these internet films) fits right in. Her acting in this is clearly a Lynch-directed performance (which is especially obvious if you compare across the other films on the site, or any of her other roles). I think a lot of people just assume that Lynch’s movies are “weird” without really thinking about how. He clearly has a purpose (whatever that may be) for directing his (female) protagonists in similar ways. Cotillard’s delivery here is similar to the kind of performance (though by no means as mesmerizing) one sees (in parts) from Laura Dern. This film seems closest related to Inland Empire, not only in its non-celluloid look, or because it is the most recent of his features, but because it seems to center around “a woman in trouble” without any apparent plot on the surface (though, of course it is 164 minutes shorter).
Ah, but dear reader, this little short contains quite a bit of substance along with its flashy camera trickery. Basically, the woman replaces her love (real and/or imagined) for a handbag. Yes, that is the simple story. Despite whatever kind of negative, reactionary assessment one might have of the film (like “It’s about nothing!” or “WTF!”), Lynch clearly centers the film around the product. However, he rather ingeniously turns the product (the handbag) from a source of anxiety (“I am afraid to look inside”) to a literal fetish object replacing her previous pursuit of (the) Man. Ok, so maybe you say I’m reading too much into it, but I say, as an unapolegetic Lynch-ophile, that this is an exercise in turning advertising on its head. If the ad works (however that may be measured, most obviously if one were to crazily buy the handbag after watching it), then Lynch has basically made the viewer/buyer admit to his or her own consumerist fetish. Spend a lot of money, buy some love (back) for yourself.  Oh, the economy….


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