These days, fashion houses are rolling out short films faster than you can say, "Action!" Chanel has produced several, the most recent being the bizarre "Window World" directed by Karl Lagerfeld; Dior's "Lady Grey London," starring Marion Cotillard, premiered in December; and L.A.-based photographer/director Lisa Eisner teamed up with Devendra Banhart on a short film for eyewear brand Oliver Peoples released earlier this month.
But what about the quality of these pieces? Are they really any more than 3- or 4-minute commercials? Do they really qualify as entertainment?
Miu Miu is the latest to join the fashion film fray with "Powder Room," directed by Zoe Cassavetes, best known for her 2007 feature film "Broken English." Out this week, it's the first in a series of "Miu Miu Women's Tales," which will be unveiled on the brand's website in the coming months.
Miuccia Prada, who designs both the Miu Miu and Prada lines, was early to the fashion film genre. And she's been behind at least one film that has artistic, not just commercial value. That would be "Trembled Blossoms," created around the spring/summer 2008 Prada collection. The CG-animated, fairy-in-the-Prada forest tale was directed by James Lima, with concept artwork by Los Angeles-based illustrator James Jean. And it is engaging (even the second and third time) in an acid-trippy kind of way.
Cassavetes' film for Miu Miu, on the other hand, isn't nearly so impressive. The action takes place at Claridge's Hotel in London in -- you guessed it -- a powder room. And the players are model-actresses, which may be part of the problem.
Audrey Marnay enters, takes a mint, slides her finger across a glass table and crumples down onto a white sofa. Then, two mean girls come in. Marnay steals furtive glances at their fab Miu Miu shoes. They spritz perfume, powder their noses and take off. Marnay gathers herself, slides back into her own fab Miu Miu shoes (black glitter heels), and prepares to head back into the night. Reads like a commercial to me.
You can watch the film at www.miumiu.com and see interviews with Cassavetes and the cast, if you are so inclined, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. (There's lots of discussion about the powder room as sanctuary, etc. )
Studies have shown that several fashion films have increased the number of visits to designer websites. But are they attracting new eyeballs or just the people who are already fans? Maybe it doesn't matter.
Still, if the future is branded entertainment, let's make sure it's really entertaining.
-- Booth Moore
Photos: Top and bottom images from the Zoe Cassavetes-directed short film "Powder Room." Courtesy of Miu Miu. Middle image from the James Lima-directed film "Trembled Blossoms." Courtesy of Prada.