In “Un Rendez Vous,” director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) creates a commercial/short film hybrid that is as potent with sexual tension as the aroma of the product on display. Jude Law (Road to Perdition, The Holiday) and Slovakian fashion model Michaela Kocianova are entangled in a mysterious, noir-like affair that becomes more playful and erotic as the story’s secrets slowly unravel. While this short is no doubt about a particular product, Dior Homme fragrance, it is ruled by the peculiar way the film’s hypnotic style wrestles to dress up the primal instincts of the protagonist and the woman he seeks.
First and foremost, “Un Rendez Vous” demands repeat viewings. Ritchie gives the protagonist ambiguous dialogue and this initially gives misleading genre signs. When Law says into his phone “I know who you are” and “you’re going to wish you’ve never been caught” the film starts to seem like it might be about a heist gone wrong or that it is building up to a James Bond action sequence. Then we hear that it’s a woman’s voice on the phone and this instead suggests Law is hiding a secret love from the woman he’s with and we are potentially watching an erotic thriller or a torrid romance about a love triangle. Mixed signals to say the least.
These layers of ambiguity do however eventually fall away, revealing the truth about the man and woman’s relationship: Kocianova’s appearance in the hotel room is really a part of Law’s imagination, his desire. He fantasizes that she helps him get ready, seductively buttoning his shirt, fastening his cufflinks, and this suggests that his preparation is designed with only her in mind. The scene acts as foreplay to their impending physical encounter. The ambiguity then, in hindsight, is not just about genre, but is the very structure of their desire: uncertainty quickens the game being played out between the two of them. When the montage hits, the fantasy falls away and we see the characters as they prepare for their imminent and real world rendezvous.
Accentuating and overplaying the smallest of sounds, Richie brings the viewer closer to the characters and the stillness of film’s intimate atmosphere. The sound design exaggerates the sounds of Law’s feet shuffling as he gazes into the mirror, the grip of his hand on the phone, and the sliding of the cufflinks as Kocianova removes and fastens them. This fetishistic attention to sounds places us in the same rooms as the characters, between them, and highlights the desire between the two. The montage sequence, featuring a track called “Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)” by the English rock band Muse, creates a mysterious and sensual feel to the already loaded short. The song brings a mesmerizing element to the final sequence as the grungy guitar riffs howl over the soft violins, a similar tension of opposites symbolizing the conflict between style and primal instincts throughout the film.
At the rendezvous itself, Ritchie causes desire and the primal body to collide. The man and the woman must rely on their senses, specifically their sense of smell, to find and recognize one another. The preceding events suggest that the other senses fail the characters in some fashion. In the hotel room, Law can fantasize that Kocianova is physically with him but is unable to touch this illusion. He cruises through the city with a piercing stare yet cannot see her. The sound of her voice on the phone connects them but only tenuously, on an unsatisfying level. And the kiss he plucks on her shoulder is a false taste. When Kocianova asks how she will recognize him, Law reassures her, “you’ll know when I’m there.” As his tie dances in the wind and her coat elegantly bursts open, it is their scents that assure them they have found one another. Ritchie structures the film to move from its ambiguous start to this certainty found through the characters’ sense of smell. There is only one way Kocianova can know he is there. Dior Homme.
Numero Cinq has featured several of these commercial/film hybrids including Roman Polanski’s Prada commercial, Ang Lee’s BMW short, and Lucrecia Martel’s fashion advertisement for MiuMiu.
Jon Dewar is a grad student at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton and is working towards a degree in education. He is an avid film fan, interested in both film analysis and filmmaking. Some of his inspirations include directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Steve McQueen, and Martin Scorsese. Jon has written numerous screenplays and is working towards eventually producing some of these projects.