Through New Year's, we'll be counting down the best work of the year in TV/Film/Branded Content, Print/Outdoor/Design and Interactive/Integrated (IX) as our picks of the day.
At #9 in our TV, film and branded content category comes Kenzo's incredibly out-there perfume ad directed by Spike Jonze and starring Margaret Qualley. The film was widely hailed as breaking the mold of fragrance advertising, and although Jonze could be said to riffing off his own work for Fat Boy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," Qualley's performance is so memorable that this is a standalone triumph in its own right.
Actress Margaret Qualley is a woman possessed in a far-out short from director Spike Jonze for Kenzoworld, fashion brand Kenzo's new scent from Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon.
The story begins with Qualley sitting stiffly at a fancy dinner event at L.A.'s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, politely grinning as the speaker delivers a monotone speech. But since her eyes fail to smile along with her mouth, you can tell she's not enjoying it, and eventually she pulls away, for a reprieve from the stuffiness.
Once in the lobby, Qualley manages to compose herself, but a quirky percussive, tribal track kicks in and she soon becomes taken over by something out-of-this world. Her eyes twitch, her shoulders shrug and her limbs flail wildly, wrestling with her jewel green dress. Throughout, it seems a playful struggle between body and soul as she's pulled across a sweeping hall in a wild dance, going more berserk with each step, licking a statue, flying up staircases, playing with mirrors and teasing a fellow patron.
But that's just the beginning. Things start to get really insane when Qualley starts shooting electric bolts out of her fingertips and she commands one of the hall's main stages, moving into beautiful balletic poses before plunging, backwards into the audience pit. She's then swept outside where she become more acrobatic, twirling into an aerial cartwheel and leaping into a gigantic, floral eye -- the only nod to the product, which comes in an eye-shaped bottle.
"For us, the Kenzo woman is relatable," said Lim in a statement. "She's inspirational yet understandable. She's doing things, right? She's got things happening in her life. She's going to school or she's dating. She's an activist. She's a doer. What we wanted to convey was that yes, she possesses this extra layer. We also want her to be someone you attain to be, like the best version of yourself."
For fans of director Jonze, the film feels like an updated homage to his much celebrated video for Fat Boy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," which featured a sluggish Christopher Walken suddenly overtaken by the urge to dance -- and eventually fly -- across the halls of L.A.'s Marriott Hotel.
The new video features choreography from Ryan Heffington, who also conceived the dance for Sia's "Chandelier" video. The track is "Mutant Brain," created by Sam Spiegel, & Ape Drums featuring Assassin. Spiegel also happens to be Mr. Jonze's brother and is the founder of music production company Squeak E. Clean, which has created scores for brands like Adidas, Under Armour, Honda, Toyota and more.
Jonze has been a long-time collaborator with Kenzoworld creators Lim and Leon and has worked with the pair on multiple projects for their retail company and fashion house Opening Ceremony. Amongst their many collaborations were a one-act play for a previous Spring/Summer fashion show and a product line themed around the Jonze-directed big screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are."
"Spike and I have always collaborated on each other's projects," said Mr. Leon. "One of the most admirable parts of working with Spike is his ability to storytell and push the boundaries. He is a visionary like no other and I am constantly inspired by him. It is super exciting to be able to work on projects with friends."