David Lynch, the creator of the weirdest program on television, has joined forces with Calvin Klein, the creator of the weirdest commercials on television.
The result: four new TV spots, directed by Lynch for Obsession, Klein's bizarrely promoted but wildly successful fragrance.
Marketing executives at Klein's New York-based company said Lynch made the commercials earlier this summer, a week before resuming production of "Twin Peaks" for the fall season. The ads not only feature Lynch's directorial talents, but two of "Twin Peaks' " lead actors, Lara Flynn Boyle and James Marshall. Lynch also hired Angelo Badalamenti, the creator of the TV series's hypnotic score, to write the music for the commercials.
But don't expect Laura Palmer-at-the-perfume-counter from the Lynch-Klein collaboration. In fact, what's odd about the new spots is that they don't seem very odd at all, especially compared with the previous Obsession series -- a campaign so obscure and avant-garde that they may have made viewers long for Mr. Whipple.
Written by Klein's New York ad agency, Chiat/Day/Mojo, the ads are 30-second vignettes based on four famous novels: Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary," Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love." In each, a narrator reads a passage about doomed love from the novel, with a dramatic interpretation by the actors. The product is mentioned as an afterthought at the end.
Boyle, who on "Peaks" plays Donna Hayward, Laura Palmer's best friend, does a turn in the Bovary ad, at one point placing her unseen lover's pipe in her mouth; Marshall (James Hurley on the series) is in the Hemingway spot, but does nothing more unusual than lie on a bed and shed a tear.
The commercials will air in 75 cities, starting tonight in New York and Sept. 6 in Washington.
The ads weren't written with either "Twin Peaks" or Lynch in mind, said Carmen Dubroc, the top marketing executive at Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. But the director was idle after winning the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival in May for his new movie, "Wild at Heart," she said, and agreed to make the ads. She refused to say how much Lynch was paid.
The original Obsession commercials, shot in black-and-white by fashion photographer Richard Avedon, featured starkly furnished sets, an eerie musical soundtrack, and Felliniesque imagery. What little theme or story line there was involved the characters' obsessive love affairs, and included suggestions of bondage and bizarre sexual relationships. In one commercial, an anguished character murmurs, "If living with obsession is a sin, then let me be guilty!" as his face is consumed in flames.
Bob Garfield, Advertising Age magazine's ad critic, calls the original Obsession commercials "either a pretentious exercise in perversity or a perverse exercise in pretentiousness." Added Garfield, "I knew instantly when I saw them that they'd be effective, even though they're somewhat overbearing."
In fact, Obsession, and Obsession for Men, sold more $100 million at wholesale last year, making it one of the top five lines, according to Dubroc. But she said the original ads, made in 1985 and 1986, were wearing out.
"We felt it was time to look at the brand in a different light," she said. "We wanted to update the concept of sexuality seen in the originals by concentrating more on romance than on promiscuity. At the same time, we wanted to keep some of the intrigue and mystery" of the originals.
Lynch, who was unavailable for comment, is one among a number of film directors who have made TV commercials in recent years. Lured by advertisers' willingness to shell out big fees to big names for only a week's work, directors such as Martin Scorsese ("Raging Bull"), Tony Scott ("Days of Thunder"), Adrian Lyne ("Fatal Attraction") and Ridley Scott ("Alien") have shot ads for such products as soft drinks and computers.