If you think about it, the America of the 1930s wasn’t so different from the America of today: shaky economic climate, unstable political situations, but renewed hope thanks to a recent political shift. So while in this Obama-led era of modesty and frugality, the excesses demonstrated by the fashion industry can feel a little out of sync, it’s apt that the fashion designer Dior chose to invoke classic film noir cinema for the web series/viral ad Lady Noire.
Essentially the chick version of those Clive Owen BMW ads, Lady Noire is a tense spy thriller heavily laced with German Expressionist touches, art deco production design, and of course, gorgeous clothes.
Written and directed by French filmmaker Olivier Dahan (Ma Vie En Rose), the series’s official star is his Edith Piaf muse, Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard. But the primary product being pushed — in other words, the real star of the show — is the classic Lady Dior handbag and accompanying fashion. A good two minutes of the first chapter is spent slow-panning over the handbag and accompanying accessories, which Cotillard lays out with the precision of a high-end jewelry counter clerk. And in the final credits, the wardrobe get top billing (not only does Cotillard sport the latest Dior apparel, but all men are in Dior Homme suits.)
The in-browser player for the film is tragically underdeveloped: picture quality is great, but no status bar or pause button? Please. Regardless, it’s a pretty enjoyable experience. If you can get past the product placement, Lady Noire is flawless yet playful with its appropriation of film noir tone and techniques, invoking beloved classics while remaining enjoyable on its own level. And soon-to-be-a-major-star Cotillard (who’ll next be seen in Michael Mann’s John Dillinger shoot-‘em-up Public Enemies) is a natural femme fatale, conveying equal amounts of craftiness and vulnerability with the limited dialogue given.
Although the series’ Twitter account is all about hinting at the many mysteries unresolved in the first episode, it’s still ridiculously easy to write off the narrative as largely inconsequential — all you seem to need to know is oh my god, isn’t her handbag-full-of-secrets to die for? Perhaps, as the mystery gets deeper in future chapters, the Dior look will take a backseat to the actual plot. But right now, Lady Noire offers a mindless escape into both a long-ago era and a realm of fashion few of us will ever be able to afford.