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Making 'Chanel No. 5 the Film', The Star Online, 18th November 2004

Take a classic perfume, add an acclaimed actress, an exotic young actor and an innovative film director, and what do you get? The renewed spirit of Chanel No.5. MAJORIE CHIEW finds out what goes into the making of the Chanel ad video.

Destiny has a way of introducing people. A chance meeting. A shared gaze. Love at first sight – in a taxi. Imagine two souls crossing paths in busy New York.

In the spirit of the legendary Chanel No.5 comes a stunning romantic fantasy, an urban fairy tale written, directed and produced by Baz Luhrmann (director of Moulin Rouge, 2001). It is a new advertising film that casts Nicole Kidman as the new face of Chanel No.5.

Nicole Kidman and Rodrigo Santoro in Chanel No.5 the Film which was shot on location in Sydney. Kidman takes on the role of the most famous woman in the world while charming Brazilian actor Santoro plays a struggling writer who falls in love with Kidman.

As one of the world’s most celebrated actresses, Kidman, plays the role of the “most famous woman in the world”. Young and charming Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro plays a struggling writer who falls in love with Kidman.

The story is set in a mythical metropolis where a mysterious and beautiful woman runs out of her limousine and into the traffic of the imaginary Times Square. She escapes the paparazzi and the screaming fans, and plunges into the heart of neon and noise.

She leaps into a taxi, which already has a young male passenger in the back seat. Their eyes meet.

“Just drive,” she orders the cabbie.

Before long, the pair is cavorting on the rooftop of the young man’s apartment. There is an enormous globe-lit double-C sign in the form of a crescent moon with the mythical city skyline in the distance.

They share a romantic moment, locked in a kiss and embrace, before reality accosts her in the form of a man in the shadows. She must choose between love and responsibility. Together, they realise she must return to the world from which she came.

Fulfilling her destiny, she makes a glamorous appearance at a spectacular public appearance. A changed soul. Full of poise and confidence. As she climbs the grand staircase to glory, in a burst of paparazzi flashbulbs, she feels the young man’s presence across the river. She stops.

She catches sight of the silhouette of the Chanel sign. They connect for a moment. They share the memory they will never forget. She turns back, a stronger person, no longer running from her responsibility but walking confidently towards it.

The young man remembers. Her kiss. Her smile. Her perfume.

The stuff of dreams. Chanel No.5.

This is a tale of stolen love, haute couture, fine jewellery and fragrance coming together in one unforgettable production. The commercial – a two-minute film – was shot in five days in Sydney. It is the latest Kidman-Luhrmann collaboration, a creative relationship that began 10 years ago.

The making of No.5 advertising film
Artistic director of Chanel Jacques Helleu, who guarded and nurtured the image of Chanel No.5 for 30 years, started thinking about the new Chanel No.5 advertising film in 2002, according to information provided by Chanel.

If you have to tell the story, No.5 is an absolute legend, he says. This film, he feels, evokes a meeting, a passionate love.

Helleu knew Kidman was perfect for this role. When he saw Moulin Rouge, he was impressed by “her absolutely incredible power of seduction”.

During the concept stage, Helleu recalls that Luhrmann told him that he would make a film, not an advertisement. He gave Luhrmann total freedom to create magic on the screen. And waited to be “amazed”.

Luhrmann chose to tell a story depicting the kind of woman who wears the legendary perfume. His childhood memories of Chanel No.5 include a flash of black-and-white footage; Marilyn Monroe answering “Chanel No.5” when asked by the Press what she wore in bed; the beautiful Catherine Deneuve with a French accent on television talking about her lovers.

“As I was growing up, it was accepted that a glamorous woman drank champagne, made love, jetted off to romantic locations and wore Chanel,” he says.

Helleu says: “Luhrmann is a true artist who was able to give a cinematographic wholeness to the entire production with a true rhythm, characters, and a very special atmosphere, and all of this in a context that draws attention.

“The action happens in a metropolis that resembles New York, but it was all filmed in Australia. I was struck by the precision of Luhrmann, this direction down to the least detail, the details of the street which give a dramatic intensity to the action.”

Although the shoot lasted five days, the preparation was “enormous”.

Karl Lagerfeld, one of the iconic masters of the fashion world, specially designed five beautiful haute couture dresses for Kidman. Her first dress was a pink cloud of 120m of tulle tapered by numerous seamstresses to fit every curve of her perfect body.

A unique white gold and diamond necklace was also made for Kidman: a long flowing ribbon that falls down to the bottom of her back, ending with a No.5. Three people from the Chanel jewellery department travelled to Australia to adjust this amazing piece of jewellery; the only obvious reference to the fragrance in this film.

What’s the advertising impact of the film?

Helleu concedes that the strength of the film comes from the talent of Luhrmann and Kidman, from their extraordinary ability to make a film that lasts only a few seconds with the same professionalism required for a full-length film.

Helleu explains: “From the very beginning, I was guided by the same obsession – to reveal feminine seduction in all of its facets, to show the incarnation of this seduction above all.

“While the advertising of No.5 is based on breaking away and doing something different, there’s a spirit that remains: you shouldn’t hold onto an image, a pure illustration, but rather focus on a character, an attitude.”

How is Kidman emblematic of Chanel No.5?

At the climax of the story, Kidman looks back at her lover: a necklace drapes her bare back. A total of 687 diamonds form the iconic number 5.

Created in 1921, No.5 has kept all of its seduction and mystery. The best-selling fragrance in the world is composed of ylang-ylang from the Comoro Islands, jasmine from Grasse and May rose – a true olfactory symphony.

And so the legend of Chanel No.5 lives on.

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