Deconstructing Chanel's "Where Beauty Begins"
Fashion brands have too much money. It should be taken away from them and redistributed to companies that might spend it on something useful or entertaining.
Sorry for going all Bolshevik on you, but that's the only takeaway I have after trying to find wit, meaning, personality or depth in "Where Beauty Begins," Chanel's latest video opus. Arriving ten months after Brad Pitt's dunce-poetry jam on behalf of Chanel scentywater, this one features actor/model Diane Kruger doing… something. Existing, maybe? She's there, and there's a chunky guitar riff and a bunch of words - more on those in a bit - but none of it really registers as action. It's just 60 seconds of good-looking person existing.
Remember when fashion brands used to aspire to a kind of winking vapidity? "Where Beauty Begins" doesn't have that, either. A plot? A point? Ambition? No, no and no.
That's my long way of saying that there's not a lot to work with here. So I decided to transcribe the clip, all 79 painstakingly lyrical words of it, and describe the inactivity as it unfolds. Chanel's words are in italics, mine are in parentheses.
1. Guitar chord sounds. Title cards flash. Oh boy, video coming! Donna, fetch me my protective headgear.
2. Where does beauty begin? By being myself, just myself. (Kruger stares off into the distance, as if contemplating a distant object. It checks out, though: she doesn't appear to be being anyone else.)
3. Not wanting to resemble anyone else. (Kruger repeats the stare, this time through sunglasses with Frisbee-sized lenses, then uncorks a Mona Lisa grin and turns from the camera. Now she's blurry and on a beach, with windblown hair. This is what happens when the editor hates the director.)
4. Beauty isn't sought; it's revealed. (Kruger is walking down a street. No, she is walking across a street. No, she is in a coffee shop and engaged in pleasant conversation with a man who's bad at shaving. Is she aware she's being filmed?)
5. It doesn't have to prove itself. It just moves you. (Beach again! Looking for somebody through a window! Opposite of urgency!)
6. I believe in chance (She's opening a door and walking), in the allure of the moment (Kruger is on the beach, maybe with maybe an assistant or a photographer? No, check that, she's back on the street again, walking), in beauty even with the eyes closed (Her head rests on some unidentified person's shoulder, then her sunglasses go back on her face. "Eyes closed" and sunglasses… is this a stab at a sight metaphor? Paging Dr. T.J. Eckleburg).
7. Guitar solo! (Kruger returns to the street where walkers walk, then she hops into a vintage Mercedes convertible. I can't be the only one beginning to suspect this video is just surveillance-camera footage culled from four streets, two cafes and one beach.)
8. Beauty blooms where not expected (Back on the beach, photobombed by seagulls). It never flaunts itself (Driving in car with only one hand on the wheel. Apparently we're now selling DANGER). It often hides (On beach, first photographed close up with a burka or burp cloth obscuring part of Kruger's face and then far away with the tide nipping at her heels. This is when I started making up a plot of my own. Run, Diane! It's jellyfish season! And your feet are as bare as the sand is loosely granular! Run!).
9. Beauty is mysterious (It's time for a super close-up, with a klieg light in the background. Hey, those things are used in movies and whatnot. Maybe Kruger is aware of her participation in this project after all), unexpected, sometimes imperfect (Close-up on perfect face made up perfectly), always unique (She's one-hand-driving again - yeah, that's really tough and cool until you lose control and bulldoze an innocent person's herb garden. Where are the NCIS: Horticulture guys when you need them?). It's an inner feeling, a promise of confidence (We're outside the coffee shop, or maybe inside but with the camera picking up the reflection, or something. There aren't any jellyfish here, at least).
10. Chanel. Where beauty begins. ("Chanel. Where beauty begins" appears on a black screen in white typeface. Give it up for minimalism, y'all!).
And that's all. One might look at "Where Beauty Begins" as an opportunity missed, as a failed attempt to distinguish cosmetological superficialities from true inner beauty and strength. Or one might simply wonder, as I do, why anybody - Chanel, fashionistas, Diane Kruger, jellyfish wranglers - bothers with this silliness.
I get that fashion is all about image and that it's challenging to keep reinventing a brand in a business where reinvention occurs every other Tuesday. But there has to be a little more to it than hiring a beautiful famous person, photographing him/her in the art of being beautiful and famous, and framing it all in a monologue packed solid with oh-so-deep thoughts about beauty and mystique and fortune. Call it high art if you want; I call it lazy. I have no idea how high-end fashion brands don't get called on their B.S. far more often than they do.
Unlike me, you have the option of not watching "Where Beauty Begins." I hope you avail yourself of it.