Smells like Baz Luhrmann

Doomed lovers. An impoverished writer who lives in a garret with a neon sign flashing outside through the night. A star who must go back to her earlier life. It’s the story of über-theatrical director Baz Luhrmann’s movie musical, Moulin Rouge, oui. But amazingly enough, it’s also the beyond-belief hokey/corny/cliché narrative of a gazillion dollar (actually, $60 million) Chanel commercial, which reunites the director with his favorite actress, Nicole Kidman.

The courtesan in Moulin, Kidman plays the, uh, movie star here, and reportedly got $12 million for her work alone in the really, really long commercial—I mean, two-minute film (which aired as an advertising stunt on ER last week). Sure, Nicole is gorgeous, and the writer in the garret is Rodrigo Santoro, the impossibly handsome Brazilian actor from Love Actually. But the dialogue is a problem: It’s only slightly less wooden than Kidman’s moves. “When did I wake into this dream?” the penniless one muses, with maudlin piano music building in the backround. “I must have been the only one in the world who didn’t know who she was.” He’s also the only broke New York bohemian artiste whose garret—in the middle of a stylized Times Square—would be worth about $2.4 million; it’s got enough outdoor space that instead of pounding on his Underwood, the guy whiles away his time sitting on the bottom of the intertwined C’s of the Chanel logo outside his window, a sort of couture version of the bat signal.

One day he’s in a cab, and next thing you know, “the most famous actress in the world” hops in, wearing a gown with a billowing train of ostrich feathers. (Hey, it could happen.) She decides on the spur of the moment to run away with this guy, because he’s obviously smart—he’s wearing black glasses. She heads to his boho garret, where she removes the feathers, in a Judy Garland type abbreviated outfit that shows the fabulous gams, and jumps out at him, announcing, “I’m a dancer! I love to dance!”—a moment so catastrophically embarrassing that you want to shield your eyes. There are some subtle reminders that this is a romance—fireworks go off in the backround, and then there’s the pounding, swelling music, which reaches a crescendo when they embrace. He bends her backwards to kiss her, and it’s an Eyes Wide Shut level of non-chemistry.

Then the evil man (in Moulin Rouge it was the pimp; here it’s her agent) appears in the hide-away. “You must be there!” the meanie says. “I don’t care about tomorrow!” she responds—a strange counterpoint to Scarlett O’Hara’s leaving everything to tomorrow. “It’s beautiful here,” she says. “Everything seems so peaceful!”—which is also slightly improbable, since she’s referring to the writer’s lair at the top of a building in the middle of the busiest city in the world. 

“And then she was gone,” the lover says. “My world would never be the same.” (Clunk!) All he has is her memory, “her kiss, her smile, her perfume,” he says. But we have her back—and this is a truly beautiful shot—Kidman wears 687 diamonds in the form of a Chanel logo pendant.

The film does get points for being over the top and visually exultant. The most ironic part is that it actually has less product placement than an actual “film,” which is admirable. And it’s big. It’s really big. If only, like smell, it were silent.

–Posted by Barbara Lippert