Lacoste has made a beautiful ad

17th March 2014

I have been a fan of French cinema for many years – but in the same manner that I am a fan of French wine: I happened upon a few that truly took my fancy, and I have never forgotten them. They simply stuck.

My favourite film is a French drama of the 1990s. Conte d’Eté is by Rohmer, a director whose fame in France was unknown to me when I happened into a cinema in 1996, at a time when I was living in Barcelona.

This was a bohemian time of my life – I was taking language lessons by morning, working by afternoon, and generally carousing by night. Perhaps Rohmer’s genius was not to instruct me with the lessons I needed to learn when I was 30 years old, but simply to capture the tone and spirit of my life. He understood.

Conte d’Eté told the story of a young man who spent his student summer at the beach in Saint-Malo, and the three love interests he met during his sojourn. It is a circular kind of movie, and ends in much the same way as it begins. One has the impression that nothing much has changed, except the sensibilities of its gangly hero; he arrived an ingénue, but departed with a hint of maturity, braided into his curly dark locks.

A great lesson the French have to teach the world is that depth of emotion defines a life truly lived. (This also helps explain why having une aventure amoureuse is more popular in France than, say, playing golf).

It is no shock that the seat of the world’s perfumeries lies in Grasse on the Cote d’Azur. Yes, Gaul has sunshine and flowers, but so too has Italy, Spain, and even the Netherlands, if one counts what happens under transparent tarpaulins. The French have understood, more fully than any other nation, that perfume is much more than scent. Within fragrances lies an eternal, carnal promise; a wish, a pleading, a desire.

The beauty of French couture lies not in its peacock-ing or its gaudy imagination. Paris has a cut that knows a woman’s body best. Not just her corporal attributes and physical needs, but also her intent, her emotional being, and her hopes for what is yet to come. These truths, like a shimmering gauze, are written between fabric and lining; ephemeral, intangible, but nonetheless there.

I am voluntarily without cable television for more than a year now. I’m inclined to think that swathes of ‘mainstream marketing’ passes me by, as a result. (This, I flatter myself, with only very mild irony, is the price one pays for living in the future – that is to say, wholly online). Perhaps it is because I am relatively starved of TV spots that I am open to being deeply moved by an ad. Or maybe it is that, by the law of averages, an ad which talks deeply to the soul must come along, every now and then?

Today was such an occasion. And it came from La Maison Lacoste.

Like a Rohmer movie, this beautiful ad describes not a plot, but a feeling:

That moment of courage when a man reaches out to a lover, for the first time. That moment when he feels most vulnerable, courageous, engulfed. It is akin to the feeling he might get when a great sporting challenge is unleashed. It is the feeling of the great leap; the realisation that progress will only be achieved through proffered risk.

The feeling conjured by Lacoste is a human truth – as much for woman as for man – and the apparel maker has dramatised its reality, and made it relevant to its brand. The result is viscerally powerful.

I am left, after 60 seconds, with a feeling that my sensibilities have been altered. As though I were a young man, walking away from Saint-Malo, at the end of a summer’s tale.

© Brian McIntyre. 2014

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