David Bowie meets Gaspard Ulliel in the new Bleu de Chanel Parfum campaign film

Star men

Text: Renée Batchelor

We're not usually the biggest fan of perfume ads, but well make an exception for this new Bleu de Chanel Parfum film

Let's face it. It's hard to make a good perfume ad that really resonates with the viewer. Calvin Klein's '90s ads were so iconic, the brand recently ressurected its Obsession campaign in late 2017Last year, the Kenzo World ad directed by Spike Jonze, and featuring actress Margaret Qualley also made waves by being so off-the-wall, it was actually refreshing. May we present a new, more understated fragrance film for your consideration. What has this one got going for it? Well Bowie for starters. The late British crooner's iconic 'Starman' plays throughout the film. Man, we love a good Bowie song. The star is French actor Gaspard Ulliel, whom you may remember from Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film, A Very Long Engagement or from his roles as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising and as a young Yves Saint Laurent in Saint Laurent (2014). And did we mentioned an Oscar-nominated director worked on it? This time, the house appointed acclaimed director Steve McQueen to direct the film. Catch it above.

Gaspard Ulliel

As for the new scent, the Parfum is unchartered territory for the house — the previous versions were the Eau de Toilette in 2010 and the Eau de Parfum in 2014. There's a nice little segue about passing torches as the original Bleu de Chanel film was directed by cinematic legend Martin Scorcese back in 2010, and this time young director McQueen, who was the first black filmmaker to win Best Picture at the Oscars, takes the helm. Similarly, legendary perfumer Jacques Polge created the original, and his son Olivier takes over with this version. This time the proportion of wood and citrus is adjusted to maintain the same olfactory core of zest, lavender and geranium, while introducing a stronger, woody element to this exquisite perfume. Says the younger Polge, "The difficulty was trying to set the right tone to convey what a 'parfum for men' could be. We had to avoid simply repeating what had already been done. Intensity and refinement can be expressed without throwing an olfactory punch. That is why I wanted to give more space to the sandalwood, to let it fuse with the cedar and fresh top notes." 

Speaking of continuity, Ulliel has been the face of the Bleu de Chanel range of scents since 2010, and for the third and latest incarnation, he appreciates the character growth. "This new facet is what appealed to me," he explains. "I like the way this man has evolved, it's almost as if we grew at the same pace. He is constantly looking to break with convention and the diktats of society. He scoffs at prejudices and is happy with who he is, but his approach is more mental than physical now. This time, he's making an inner escape. I think it's a valuable philosophy, especially in today's world. He is sincere and constantly calling things into question, which means that he is constantly delving inside to find out who he is and trying to reconnect with it all."  

Available from 1 June at Chanel beauty boutiques and counters