The new perfume ad by the luxury brand Kenzo starts with all the genre’s most notoriously terrible clichés: Here we have the beautiful woman in a fancy dress, the lavish setting, and the desire to escape.
But where it goes from there is as gloriously odd as you would expect from director Spike Jonze, whose resume includes movies such as Her and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as iconic music videos for the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, and others.
The ad (or short film, as the press release dubs it, entitled “My Mutant Brain”) is a dance-driven freakout through a mostly empty building housing a concert hall. Soundtracked with a floor thumper by Jonze’s brother, Sam Spiegel, and choreographed by Ryan Heffington, it features a high-energy performance by actress Margaret Qualley (who you might recognize from HBO’s The Leftovers). The result is a far weirder protagonist than the predictably sultry, heavy-eyed heroine of perfume ads.
The ad is reminiscent of Jonze’s 2001 music video for Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” which starred Christopher Walken gyrating his way through a Marriott hotel. It fits nicely into the quirky point of view of Kenzo creative directors, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who also created the popular retailer Opening Ceremony.
“She likes movement and speed and the way things shift and slide and collide in real time,” Lim and Leon said of their ideal Kenzo woman in a statement. “She’s never blasé, always enthusiastic. She stands out from the crowd.”
A new take on the luxury perfume ad is long overdue, and this one could appeal to all those women who view themselves as a little bolder—and stranger—than average.