Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Like a glass cloche placed over a cake to keep it moist once taken out of the oven, Brigitte Bardot’s hair in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film, Contempt, sits atop her head protecting her beauty and drawing us in with it’s tempting curves and shaggy flip. I’ve always loved the structure of her hair design in this film, but I’ve always had a problem with the color: it is simply too blonde. She was a natural brunette – and I wish she had been styled that way.
We were hard at work planning a teaser campaign for the swimwear line and I had the idea to re-create scenes from Godard’s Contempt, but instead of a bottle-blonde Bardot, we would use an unknown brunette we would somehow find on the web. We stopped what we had been scripting (a terrible idea that was more or less an uninspired rip-off of A-ha’s Take on Me music video) and started preparing the new concept.
It didn’t take much searching to find our model. There are so many great faces on the internet. Three days later, our model was booked and we were on set shooting. She was a complete amateur, but acted like a total professional. She never faked her way through anything – if she didn’t understand something she simply asked, and if she had an idea that could help makes things go more smoothly, she spoke up. It was great working with her.
For the script, I took Contempt as a starting point, and then threw away everything but the hair and wrote a completely new story. It grew into a 22-minute film.
The plot is simple – an intelligent woman is deep at work on a literary project when she stumbles upon some research left by her late great uncle in the family library. The research seems to be some type of cure for a rare form of cancer. Right before she can bring the discovery to the Swiss Institute of Medical Research, the family mansion is burglarized and the research is stolen. She follows a trail of clues to a villa over looking the sea, and goes undercover as an aspiring bikini model to track down the research and recover the cure. Along the way, she falls in love with the son of the thief, and must reconcile her heart and her mind. Is there any way out for our hero?
The scene we were shooting was similar in set-up to the “roll around on the rug” scene from Contempt, but instead of shag carpet, we were in a park on the grass, and instead of being nude, our actress was in a strapless wrap dress that unwrapped as she rolled around to reveal her Serg Riva swim wear underneath. It was quite a scene, and very technically difficult to get the dress to unwrap in just the right way as not to appear too burlesque.
Everything was going just fine and we were all wrapped and watching the footage back at the atelier and when I realized that a dog had visited our set without us knowing it and had deposited a particular piece of set-dressing that I had not intended to have placed in that specific scene. I couldn’t have our star rolling around in that and was furious. How had we missed this on set? We were all so focused on the dress and the hair and the unwrapping reveal of the swim suit that we totally over looked the grass and the present from our dear dog friend.
We had to re-shoot the scene – this time with no dog droppings – in the middle of the night with rented lights. I woke everyone up and dragged the entire team out to the grassy lawn. Our star was a good sport about it – and to be honest, looked even better with her hair slightly crushed in the way that only bed-head can achieve. The harsh shadows of the lights added an extra feeling of subterfuge to the shoot. I was so happy with the end result that I didn’t even flinch when the sprinklers came on and soaked everyone right after we cut from shooting the final take. Tired, soaking wet, and filled with excited screams, the crew squealed their way out of the park and ran back to the prep area. Our star stayed a little longer dancing in the sprinklers, and Tako walked out in a white silk evening gown and slipped her hand around my shoulder. She had been filming this whole time too, it seems, and was happy with the final shot.