By Published on .

As always, it's hard not to stare.

The new spot for Chanel No. 5, in which a mousy moviegoer transforms magically into Marilyn Monroe, is nothing if not seductive. Uncommonly fetching. Even irresistible.

The seduction begins in the opening seconds, when we see Marilyn's monochrome face on a large movie screen, singing "I want to be loved by you, just you, and nobody else but you" in her characteristic high-pitched whisper.

In the theater audience, photographed on a funky diagonal, we see a young woman munching on popcorn as she gapes at the screen. (Decked out in sunglasses and a loose-fitting shirtdress, the lady is supposed to appear mousy, but there's only so much dowdiness you can suggest in model Carole Bouquet.) Then something strange happens.

A button pops open on her dress, and, to her shock, out bursts .*.*. cleavage! Next, her moussed-back hair spontaneously begins to grow, and now the b&w scene turns into a palette of '60s Technicolor. Her dark hair becomes blond, and, yes, thanks to digital metamorphosis, the unconvincingly ordinary Ms. Bouquet becomes the convincingly ravishing Ms. Monroe.

"I want to be loved by you alone," Marilyn warbles. "Boop, boop, be doo."

Now the barrel of popcorn has become a 2-quart bottle of Chanel No. 5, and the original material girl coos: "You know what I mean? No. 5!"

"No. 5?" a woman in the audience asks.

"No. 5!" says another.

Says a third, gasping, "No. 5!"

Then, in a blink of a heavy-lidded eye, Marilyn reverts to Carole-minus any pedestrian trappings. Ms. Bouquet herself now is the full flower of her glamor as she stage-whispers, "From Chanel!," hugs her $15,000 bottle of perfume and settles in her seat for more movie magic.

Albeit nothing compared to what we've just witnessed. We've seen morphing before, of course.

Madonna's ill-fated 2-minute spot for Pepsi five years ago used a similar movie-image/movie-watcher switcheroo. And two years ago Diet Coke drew oohs and aahs by digitally superimposing the likes of Humphrey Bogart onto live, contemporary action. But director Jean-Paul Goude and the Arnell Group have appropriated all of those elements with uncommon virtuosity.

Not only is this spot striking and wondrous in its own right, it trumps the others by employing technology in the service of the message-i.e., the allegedly transforming character of the product.

Yet, still, something seems wrong.

After a few viewings-perhaps when you realize Goude has reversed the negative in one of his Marilyn shots, so that her mole is on the wrong side and her bang is falling to the right instead of the left-it occurs that the cinematic metaphor is all too apt.

Digitized, colorized, flipped and morphed. She's been dead for 32 years and still men are having their way with Marilyn Monroe. Will her body be a plaything and a commodity in perpetuity, her immortal celebrity forever tormenting her immortal soul?

And, considering the tragedy of her life, is that the sort of fantasy women want to share at $300 per ounce?

Maybe so. After all. We are still staring. The more things morph, the more they stay the same.M

Ad Age Bulletin Board on Prodigy, or by Prodigy E-Mail at EFPB35A.

Most Popular
In this article: