August 29, 2016

Watch: Spike Jonze Just Directed the Most Insane Perfume Commercial Ever

Spike Jonze's new commercial for Kenzo perfume is as bold as it gets.

If you give an auteur a commercial, don't be surprised when he or she goes off the wall. In this case, Spike Jonze has done that quite literally. His latest commercial, for the Japanese perfume company Kenzo, features hypnotic choreography as a young socialite (Margaret Qualley, The Leftovers) escapes the stale atmosphere of a gala to go berserk in the hallways of the empty building. Ryan Heffington—whose work includes Sia’s "Chandelier"—has created erratic and rapturous choreography, a kind of full-body catharsis from which you can't avert your eyes, to the tune of “Mutant Brain” by Sam Spiegel (Jonze's brother) and Ape Drums​.

"I love watching the combination of excitement, violence, and insanity," Amanda Hameline, a Brooklyn-based choreographer, told No Film School. "It makes for a female passion so strong it's dangerous, which seems to be the idea all other perfume ads try to sell."

Replete with laser beams and statue-licking, the riveting commercial demonstrates Jonze's low-contrast color palette (here, nearly venturing into sepia tones) and affinity for the vagaries of human movement through space. 

As the line between content and advertising continues to blur, commercials have become increasingly cinematic. Many famous directors, such as Ridley Scott, David Fincher, and Michel Gondry, have supplemented their income with intermittent forays into commercial directing, which affords them a unique arena in which to showcase their signature style (or, in this case, personal brand). David Lynch has also directed his fair share of unorthodox commercialsnot the least of them a thoroughly Lynchian Playstation commercial which he gave the Eraserhead treatment, complete with black-and-white cinematography, floating heads, and, of course, smoke and fire.

Commercial directing has long been a pipeline to feature directing; many agencies view the commercial industry as a launchpad for the most promising auteurs they represent. But when we spoke to veteran commercial producer and filmmaker Jen McGowan earlier this year, she cautioned against this ideology, which she claims can be misleading. "Commercial directing is an industry," McGowan said. "It is a career in and of itself. Don't direct commercials because you want to be directing features. If you want to direct features, direct features."      

Your Comment

59 Comments

". David Lynch has also directed his fair share of unorthodox commercials—not the least of them a thoroughly Lynchian Playstation commercial which he gave the Eraserhead treatment, complete with black-and-white Super 16mm cinematography,"

That Lynch PS ad is shot with small Sony DV camera, not 16mm film.

This Spike Jonze add rules!

August 29, 2016 at 3:42PM, Edited August 29, 3:42PM

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Don Nachos
Editor / Animator / Producer
95

Which rules does it add?

August 30, 2016 at 4:11AM

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wonderful commercial.. 4 minutes long me thinks only dabs will reach final cut.

August 31, 2016 at 3:55PM

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is it ok if i think it's dumb

August 29, 2016 at 3:44PM

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Don't worry Adam, it's very dumb...

August 29, 2016 at 4:43PM

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I think it is a pretty stupid "style job" also. Lynch's commercials have a point and are clever. This looks likes fancy thrown together random bits of style to me. The shot where she is going up the stairs with the mirrored walls was cool though.

August 29, 2016 at 5:52PM, Edited August 29, 5:53PM

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Jake
81

I thought the same... my director on set today told me about how amazing this was, I was like wtf did I just watch numerous times.

August 30, 2016 at 11:54PM

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Jason Han
Cinematographer
213

August 31, 2016 at 2:36PM

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GVK
74

I think everything Jonze has ever made is dumb. maybe except for his work for the beastie boys.

August 29, 2016 at 6:58PM

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Martin Brewer
Director, DOP
335

Surely, you do not think "Her" was dumb on any level. It has its quirks laced amongst the intelligent design.

That being said, my excitement upon hearing about the video quickly faded as I watched. This is definitely not one of his greater pieces.

August 29, 2016 at 11:57PM, Edited August 30, 12:02AM

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Joshua Grodecki
Screenwriter/Cinematographer
90

Its perfectly ok to see it for what it is.

August 30, 2016 at 8:40AM

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Kruno
Cinematographer, storyteller.
171

Reminds me a lot of the video he did for Fat Boy Slim "Weapon of Choice"

August 29, 2016 at 3:47PM, Edited August 29, 3:47PM

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Ces Peynetti
Director of Photography
74

It's EXACTLY like it. I like the ad just fine, but it's not new. Not when it's exactly like a classic video.

August 30, 2016 at 10:05AM

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I thought so, too, and when mashed up, they have some very definite parallels:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB2fg71HRlo

August 31, 2016 at 5:25PM

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I was going to say it borrowed a lot from that but I did not realise he directed that so I guess he's off the hook for ripping himself off, haha!

September 3, 2016 at 9:39AM

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Alex Douglas
Music Video Producer
103

I get the whole "throwback" ode that's super in right now.. but this feels so regurgitated and unoriginal. Like dude, Spike, you did this 10+ years ago with Weapon of Choice, let the classic live and work on something new!
Super meh on this.

August 29, 2016 at 3:49PM

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Evan Buzzell
Director, Producer, MFCEO of SBS Media House
79

Totally disagree. Yeah the idea of a person wildly dancing through a space is similar, but the tone, choreography, direction, and cinematography of this are very different.

To say this is a regurgitation of Weapon of Choice is oversimplifying.

August 29, 2016 at 4:21PM

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David S.
3033

It IS the same thing. Both choreographies are something weird, not a good dance, but a crazy one. Both actors use formal clothes. Both are in luxury buildings. Both are depressive until they start to dance. In fact, I believe this commercial is a clear reference to the music clip. Two different applications, but the same idea.

August 29, 2016 at 4:46PM

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Yeah, what Guilherme said. I mean, it's cool and shit, but it's totally an homage to himself.

August 29, 2016 at 5:14PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
793

I totally agree. It feels a bit like a reboot of the beloved original. I can hear the pitch meeting for this and it makes me sad....

August 29, 2016 at 8:30PM

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Alec Fredericks
VFX Artist
79

Looks like Qualley is trying to mimic Maddie Ziegler's work in Sia's Chandelier and not doing a very good job of it.
Kind of interesting to watch but, totally forgettable.

And, I'm not crazy about the color.

August 29, 2016 at 6:01PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
831

These body movements will always be © of Daniels.

Can't remember? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMUDVMiITOU

August 29, 2016 at 6:43PM

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Yes! I did not see your post until after I posted the same video.

Daniels take the cake when you want visual crazy on the screen.

August 29, 2016 at 8:24PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32266

...and I will enjoy your list of recommendations :)

August 30, 2016 at 3:23PM

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August 29, 2016 at 7:49PM, Edited August 29, 7:49PM

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Jim Talbot
Fine Art photographer/ Aspiring Filmaker
74

...And it's Christopher Walken!

August 29, 2016 at 8:22PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32266

yep :)

August 31, 2016 at 11:37AM

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steve
154

...Um, when does the insane part start ?

This looks a lot like a film school project that is just trying oh so hard to be just so dang important, but says nothing visually, says nothing intellectually, there's not even a great story to give it some backbone.

...Now if you want a something with more visual substance, I would suggest Ridley Scott's "La Piscine" - CHANEL N°5 ad from 1979.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b82iyeti9jg

...Or if you want something will real "visual crazy", I would suggest Daniels music video for DJ Snake & Lil Jon "Turn Down for What" (2014)

https://vimeo.com/88415705

While I think Spike Jonze is a genius when he is on form...

"Her" (2013)

"Being John Malkovich" (1999)

"Three Kings" (1999)

...but this Kenzo commercial feels like he was just phoning it in for the pay check.

Swing and a miss.

August 29, 2016 at 8:09PM, Edited August 29, 8:24PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32266

"...Or if you want something will real "visual crazy", I would suggest Daniels music video for DJ Snake & Lil Jon "Turn Down for What" (2014)"

That was a re-make of this video as much as Kenzo was re-make of Weapon Of Choice:
https://vimeo.com/58574055

But Daniels are not "phoning it in for the pay check"?

August 31, 2016 at 4:54PM

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Don Nachos
Editor / Animator / Producer
95

Kind of like all fragrance marketing. Ever.

September 3, 2016 at 9:42AM

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Alex Douglas
Music Video Producer
103

Very reminiscent of his music video for Fat Boy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" starring Christopher Walken back in the day.

August 29, 2016 at 9:39PM

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Agree. Surely it was inspired! I thought of the same thing.

August 30, 2016 at 5:34PM

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Taylor
Producer
95

"Don't direct commercials because you want to be directing features." Ouch ... sounds like an old-schooler who wants to keep their veteran job. Like the bitter ad-man who stars in "Happy-ish"

Why can't commercials be directed by feature directors? The premises of what succeeds in commercial ads have rapidly changed over recent years to the point where everyone has to be odd/wacky/strange just to get your attention, and to make you remember. If you remember the ad and the product, that's all the matters, not whether the director was a veteran commercial ad director (who is farming out ideas from new young crops anyway) or whether they were Stanley Kubrik ... who I seriously think we should consider rising from the dead just to see what commercial he would make.

August 29, 2016 at 11:43PM, Edited August 29, 11:44PM

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Well Kubrick's 2001 cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth worked on cigarette ads (before outlawed in the US). Does that count? :)

September 19, 2016 at 8:03PM, Edited September 19, 8:13PM

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SheSays
81

Wow, what a wacky commercial.

But damn, I want to know how they shot that mirror scene! Any ideas anyone? Or just a big VFX budget?

August 30, 2016 at 12:02AM

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Gavin Ash
Director of Photography
81

Interesting... Does anyone know how did he achieve the shot. Where he film the mirrors scene but you can not see the camera on screen. How did he achieve that? Just curious... -Thanks..

August 30, 2016 at 12:24AM

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Jeff M.
Director/Writer/Editor/Cinematographer
162

The camera gets painted out in post, with reference to a clean plate.

August 30, 2016 at 7:06AM, Edited August 30, 7:06AM

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Yes, it's just painstaking roto + painting, but the camera move is probably motion controlled, so they have a clean, moving plate without the actress (but with a big-ass technocrane...). But this is just guessing, maybe some of the mirrors were greenscreens. Don't think so though.

August 30, 2016 at 11:24AM

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It's a less wacky version of a DANIELS music video.

August 30, 2016 at 8:06AM, Edited August 30, 8:06AM

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I'll just say it was quite pleasant to look at and somewhat hypnotizing...probably because it was so pleasant to look at. :)

August 30, 2016 at 8:14AM

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Can anyone elaborate on how do the scene where all the mirrors are? I get you would do a clean plate, but how do you get a clean plate when you're looking directly in the camera and/or in motion?

Curious.

Thanks

August 30, 2016 at 8:21AM

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Ash Tailor
Videographer
218

Spike Jonze seems to be trying really hard to be Chris Cunningham in this ad, and failing at it.

August 30, 2016 at 8:52AM

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Dave Kratz
Editor/DP/Director
90

Chris Cunningham is one of my idols. What camera was used for this video?

August 30, 2016 at 1:21PM, Edited August 30, 1:21PM

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My guess is C300 or C500. He used the C300 on Her, I'm pretty sure. The colors looks pretty warm and creamy in that Canon way.

September 1, 2016 at 9:02AM

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Ben McGinley
Producer / Shooter / Editor
134

Her was shot with an Arri Alexa

September 2, 2016 at 6:29PM

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andrew berekdar
Director
88

A commercial that sums up the current feminine ideal: A graceless, charmless, spastic display that looks like the deranged outburst of the mentally ill.

August 30, 2016 at 2:30PM

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You've just been nominated for the "Least Intelligent Comment" award. I think you're definitely a shoe-in for the win.

August 31, 2016 at 11:25AM

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Are all those mirror shots around 1:50 just rotoscoped?

August 30, 2016 at 3:02PM, Edited August 30, 3:02PM

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Emil
Content
155

I couldn't help but think of Fatboy Slim's Weapon Of Choice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCDIYvFmgW8

August 30, 2016 at 5:30PM

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Taylor
Producer
95

He also directed that.

August 31, 2016 at 4:04AM

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Totally agree :)

August 31, 2016 at 11:37AM

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steve
154

God you're a bunch of trolls!!!

August 31, 2016 at 3:16AM

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I actually kind of like it. And apparently, so does Spike Jonze's, since he's done this before.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB2fg71HRlo&feature=youtu.be'

August 31, 2016 at 8:27AM

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With a respect to its authors and the actress, you don't even have to look closer to notice the girl is evincing most symptoms of a possession. Was it intended? Wouldn't really try to see any artistic flair in it, the commercial is just disgusting. I like the dress though...

August 31, 2016 at 4:21PM

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Tough crowd here :D

Ok, it's cool to be the cool kid in the block who don't like popular things. Many (all?) seem to miss the context here. It's ad for perfume. Perfume ads are super boring.

And no, you are not the only one who 'got' the Weapon of Choice reference.

This hit the mark 100% and if you don't know why, then don't even think of ever working on commercials. (Why would i ever work in commercials, i hear you say. I only do cool indie stuff without budget and it would be boring to have ten million dollars for three minutes.) Short form with big budget is plain fun :D

August 31, 2016 at 4:41PM, Edited August 31, 4:44PM

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Don Nachos
Editor / Animator / Producer
95

So you monkeys will post 46 comments on a perfume promo, but for the Gene Wilder post theres nothing?

September 1, 2016 at 12:31AM

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There's nothing bad to say about Wilder, he was brilliant. We can shite on this all day...

September 3, 2016 at 9:46AM

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Alex Douglas
Music Video Producer
103

Thursday evening: video is "private." Thanks a lot.

September 1, 2016 at 9:22PM, Edited September 1, 9:22PM

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Bob Byars
208

I would like to see it, but it says this video is private. And yes, I did log in.

September 2, 2016 at 2:37AM, Edited September 2, 2:37AM

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Joseph Lippencott
Instrument Designer/Fabricator
1

Just google spike jonze kenzo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABz2m0olmPg

September 2, 2016 at 5:03PM

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Amanda
74

something does not work in this video, it is not subtle nor well paced, it is very average. i can't understand why it is so popular ? now, there is is a masterpiece in this category of perfume ad : http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1d9fz_pub-chanel-egoiste_news

September 3, 2016 at 3:30PM, Edited September 3, 3:33PM

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I know this is a film blog, not a fashion blog but some fact checking is necessary...Kenzo is a French luxury fashion label, not Japanese, that is now headed by two Californian designers - Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. And this is their first perfume, so they aren't a perfume company. This is an incredible ad though, thanks for the article.

September 7, 2016 at 7:48AM, Edited September 7, 7:48AM

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Can someone tell me how he does the mirrors scene? That part blows my mind.
Plus, I loved it! I'm not too keen of perfume ads, but this one hits the missing spot, it convinces people like me, the 'i don't like the current trend' people, and it's entertaining and visually outstanding. It works because it's the opposite of what you expect.

September 14, 2016 at 11:36PM

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Abi Stricker
Student
230

Sad to see what an Illuminati whore-ographer Spike Jonze has become.

Ladies, go ahead & spend your $ on Kenzo crap to feel the "freedom" of being a beta slave:
Masonic Monarch sex-kitten conditioning has never smelled so good!

September 19, 2016 at 7:19PM, Edited September 19, 7:53PM

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SheSays
81

Clearly 100% an ode to his handlers in the business and a ritual worshiping the eye of Horus and demonic possession central to the Hollywood and Music arts, using the art form to put a hex on the population and take control of their mind and life force.

August 8, 2017 at 4:09PM, Edited August 8, 4:11PM

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Be The World of Change
Outsider Artist w/o an industry handler
1