Femme Chanel—Emma Fenchel is a video made with found footage—sequences from existing films—that explores the possibilities of recontextualizing this material. The point of departure is a commercial for the Chanel No. 5 Night Train perfume (France 2009) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and featuring Audrey Tautou, as well as other films (Coco Chanel, Hunting and Gathering, Priceless) in starring Tautou. This found footage was re-cut into a new video, with particular emphasis on the editing as a means of subtly manipulating viewers. Emma Fenchel consists primarily of cuts interconnecting formally well-matched sequences from other motion pictures. This revision of the sequence of the cuts as well as the insertion of other material modifies the message of the perfume commercial, with the initially demure Audrey Tautou—playing a stereotyped female image propagated by advertising—mutating into a man-eating femme fatale.
There is one additional manipulation strategy: going with the original French soundtrack and adding German subtitles. However, the translation by no means corresponds to what is said in the originals—for one thing, in order to adapt the dialog to the new cinematic sequence of events, for another, to impart ironic connotations to the reconfigured plot. The name of the lead character, Emma Fenchel, is an anagram of “Femme Chanel,” and thus announces the basic principle of the video—rearranging various components to compose a new message.
Femme Chanel combines a Chanel commercial with various scenes from films starring Audrey Tautou. The switching between black-and-white and color, the musical transitions and the overall rhythm of the editing are very well done. The sophisticated montage of sound and image nicely fosters the concept’s development. Especially impressive is the tremendous interpretational latitude this work permits. The gaping discrepancies between the French dialog and the German subtitles—the content of which is almost totally made up—initially creates a bit of confusion, but subsequently evokes a wide array of associations in viewers’ minds and inspires totally new thoughts. It is interesting that novel narrative twists even have a way of occurring to those who have already seen this work several times.
Sarah Oos (born in 1994) in Wels, is about to graduate from the High School for Artistic Design; in October, she will start studying graphics and photography at Linz Art University. She discovered her passion for video-making and graphic design over the course of various internships, including one at the YOUKI International Youth Media Festival.