When an iconic bag meets an iconic film

The new advertising campaign for Chanel’s iconic bag, directed by Inez & Vinoodh, is above all a tribute to Claude Lelouch’s 1966 film Un homme et une femme. The bag, is the silent witness to a budding love story between Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz. Isabelle Cerboneschi

« Comme nos voix ba da ba da da da ba da ba da chantent tout bas da ba da ba…”. These few words by Pierre Barouch, set to music by Francis Lai, have left their mark on the history of French cinema. They are the soundtrack to Claude Lelouch’s film Un homme et une femme. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966, the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1967 and the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, this film marked an entire generation.

It tells the story of a man and a woman, two widowers, who meet at their children’s boarding school. The film explores the birth of desire, the fears that accompany a romantic encounter and the moment when everything changes.

The new campaign for Chanel’s iconic bag is a campaign that doesn’t say its name. The bag, of course, plays a role, but that of witness to a budding love story. Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz, filmed by Inez & Vinoodh. They took their inspiration from the words and shots of Claude Lelouch’s film, whose recognisable silhouette also makes an indelible impression on the film. We see him walking away, with his dog, on a beach in Deauville. The same beach where, nearly 60 years ago, he filmed Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant. “I admire his work so much and I found out the day before the shoot that he was going to be with us on the set and also be part of the movie”, Penélope Cruz tells Chanel.

What unfolds in less than two minutes is a love story, with all the palpitations and tension that entails, between two people who don’t speak to each other, but who express their desire with their eyes, as only two great actors can do. We feel Brad Pitt’s confusion, Penélope Cruz’s fire.

Sitting together in a hotel restaurant, the two characters look at each other without speaking, or rather, their voices are off. All that remains is their acting to express their confusion. The sensuality that emanates from the scene is palpable. Placed on the table, the iconic bag, with its timeless silhouette, seems to be the silent observer of all that is going on.

They order a chateaubriand but before the waitress, played by Rianne Van Rompaey, can even pass on to the kitchen, Penélope Cruz asks: “Sorry, do you have any rooms available?” In the original film, it was Jean-Louis Trintignant who asked the question.

“The original movie is about loss, love and choosing to move forward on love. We decided to focus on the attraction, the love and the acting on that feeling by showing the restaurant scene, but with a role reversal, and without the backstory”, Inez & Vinoodh explain.

But let’s go back to the scene where we discover the iconic bag on the restaurant table. Success and time have given it this status. It was the bag that appeared in the movie Un homme et une femme. More precisely, an earlier version.

Because the film was low-budget, Claude Lelouch chose to shoot it in three weeks. “We shot on location in natural settings. The actors were filmed in their own clothes… And it was Anouk Aimée’s actual handbag. She took it everywhere. It went very well with her personality, and we ended up keeping it for the film », Claude Lelouch explains.

“I think it was a revolutionary film visually. Then you later find out about how hard it was for them to make it, on such a small budget. I think there were only 10-15 people in the crew. You can only do something like that when you have his kind of talent. I think it was such a modern film for its time and always will be”, continues Penélope Cruz.

The choice of Deauville, where the film was shot in 1966 and the countryside, is not insignificant. It was in this seaside resort that Gabrielle Chanel opened a hat shop bearing her name in 1912. The following year, she presented her first Haute Couture creations there. Virginie Viard, Artistic Director of the Fashion collections, and a passionate film fan, pays a double tribute: to Claude Lelouch’s masterpiece and to Mademoiselle Chanel.

As for the iconic bag, it defies time and space. It is timeless, as it was back in 1966, and will still be in a few decades’ time.