Monday, May 26, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Product Placement

For a long-weekend treat, last evening I screened Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

I loved the director’s palette, soft aquas with moments of faded rose. The muted reds remind me of a vase full of dried old pink roses that I saw in an antique store vitrine on the flat of Beacon Hill; the decaying pinks were so romantic that they trumped the fancy furniture.

But I digress.

Interestingly, for a film about the former editor of French ELLE (that qualification may be redundant for some readers), there was strikingly little about the fashion world. But for his glimpse into that oeuvre, Schnabel made a good choice: Azzedine Alaia pinning a model (Lenny Kravitz added a little rock-star glitz too).

Yet fashion was indeed a part of the film, and here’s where Miss Cavendish dons her critical hat.
As he has in the past, Schnabel cast his lovely wife and linen designer Olatz in the film: she played a speech therapist who visited the hero in his hospital room. And while in his hospital bed, the hero wore some luxurious pyjamas designed by Olatz and sold in her New York shop. If my eyes didn’t deceive me, I’d say that her sheets appeared on the bed too—pink edged in chocolate brown.

It’s this kind of product placement that annoys me, especially in a film that involves fashion.

As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I think Olatz’s linens and bed clothes are absolutely lovely, but seeing them in the film (while she plays a hospital employee) smacks of too much Schnabel; the viewer cannot suspend her disbelief and enter the film when the designer of the very products on screen is pretending to be something else.

I’m also quite aware that Schnabel’s first wife. Jacqueline, has a long relationship with Mr. Alaia; she used to sell his clothes in her NYC boutique in the 1990s. But Alaia gave the film an injection of authenticity and cool, whereas the Olatz pyjamas simply made me think of merchandizing.

For me, this gratuitous flash of Schnabel self-promotion lessened the film; I was alert waiting for the second pyjama bottom to drop, so to speak.


K.Line said...

Fascinating post. I haven't seen that movie (or read the book) because I don't think I can handle the sensitive subject matter. I'm very wussy like that. Having said that, product placement you can recognize (which for me is most of it, as I am a natural marketer and a savvy consumer) is so irritating I can't stand it.

Mary-Laure said...

I saw the film last year (in Cannes...) and found it incredibly sensuous, very moving. Schnabel has a thing for filming women don't you think?
I must say I hadn't noticed the product placement though... Sigh.

BTW, following your enthusiastic post, I bought 'Summer at Tiffany' and can't wait to read it!

miss cavendish said...

Hi Mary-Laure,

Indeed Schnabel does have a knack for filming women. I loved all the close-ups--necessary to represent Jean-Do's perspective--but it was also lovely to reflect upon the expressiveness of a woman's face. I hope you enjoy the "Tiffany"; it's frothy, as I noted, but sweet, like cold strawberry soup.

Hi K.Line,

I bet we could go head to head with sensitivity; I've fainted at least three times at films with medical/human-in-distress content. You might give this one a go, though, in the comfort of your home. I managed the content quite well!

Deborah said...

I haven't seen the movie nor do I plan to due to the subject matter (I'm very effected by things like that), but I do like the PJ's.

"Summer at Tiffany"? I haven't seen your post which discussed that book but I like the title. I'll take a look on Amazon.

miss cavendish said...

Hi Deborah--Check out my post "Afternoon at Tiffany" for my take on this quick summery read.

riz said...

now i'm going to compare jacqueline and olatz side by side!

enc said...

I completely missed this connection, and mercifully so; if I'd known about it, I'd have been completely cynical about the entire film. I enjoyed it, but also felt that they left out far too much of the Elle lifestyle. I wondered why it wasn't more a part of what was plaguing him as he lay incapacitated.

miss cavendish said...

Riz--Let me know what you discover!

Enc--I missed the Elle lifestyle too. Perhaps Schnabel felt it would have been self-indulgent (and this from a man who's known for his excesses)?

Cupcakes and Cashmere said...

How random...I've just been thinking how I would absolutely love a nice pair of pajamas. Victoria's Secret just had a sale, but the material was scratchy and the patterns were way too busy. The ones from your post are pure perfection!

miss cavendish said...

Do tell if you purchase a pair; I'd love to have a review!

Iheartfashion said...

What an astute observation, Miss Cavendish! I enjoyed the film and knew that Mrs. Schnabel designs linens, but completely missed them here. For product placement, I have to say it wasn't terribly obvious like the usual waving-around-a-can-of-Coke thing.

miss cavendish said...

Indeed it was discrete, but it annoyed me just the same :) . Thank goodness she doesn't design Coke cans!