Maybe Chipotle is onto something. In September, the upscale burrito purveyor released a hauntingly beautiful animated short film, with a scarecrow fighting a dystopian factory-farm future while Fiona Apple sings a song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Conspicuously absent from Chipotle's ad are an identifiable product to sell — and the name Chipotle, which appeared only briefly at the beginning and end.
Chipotle's stealth ad quickly went viral.
Prada may have just one-upped Chipotle. On Wednesday the storied Italian fashion house released a new short film by Wes Anderson, starring Jason Schwartzman. Prada is treating the short, Castello Cavalcanti, as a movie, not an ad. It made its debut at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday. It even has its own movie poster.
But you probably don't pay for talent like Anderson, Schwartzman, and cinematographer Darius Khondji just because you like their work. Kristy Puchko at Cinema Blend raises the obvious point: "What this has to do with Prada I have no idea."
My bet is that, as explicitly stated by Chipotle, Prada is trying to reach a generation of young consumers who don't necessarily sit through commercials on TV. And if you're not going to shell out for a high-dollar spot during, say, the Super Bowl, you have a lot more money available to pay top directors and actors to make interesting, 8-minute films that people will go out of their way to watch. Isn't that more fun?
Still, it's a bit jarring to watch a commercial that doesn't appear to be selling anything.
At the very beginning of Castello Cavalcanti, you learn that Prada is presenting the film, and the brand name appears on Schwartzman's racing jacket, but make no mistake, notes Forest Wickman at Slate: "The new Wes Anderson short is every inch a Wes Anderson film." It mostly centers around an American Formula 1 racer named Jed Cavalcanti (Schwartzman) who crashes in what appears to be his ancestral town, Castello Cavalcanti, in a 1955 race. For some reason, the townspeople all seem to understand English.
Wickman and others note the film's homages to 1950s Italian cinema, especially the films of Federico Fellini (there are fairly clear references to La Dolce Vita and Amarcord). But you don't need to get the cinematic shout-outs "to appreciate the short, which is also full of the usual Anderson tics, down to even those yellow jump suits," says Wickman. "It's also just plain funny, with the ever-arch Schwartzman, in particular, at the top of his game."
This isn't Anderson's first ad for Prada — earlier this year, he and Roman Coppola did a spot for the fashion house starring Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color). This one takes place in France, but it also, you know, sells something: Prada's new scent, Candy L'Eau. It's right there in the title, and explicitly interspersed throughout the story of a romantic threesome (very SFW).
Or maybe Anderson is just on a Continental kick, and Prada is willing to punch his meal ticket. These shorts also serve as a sort of appetizer for Anderson's upcoming film about 1920s Europe, The Grand Hotel Budapest. Buon appetito.
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