Scent of a sex-industry operative

PETER YORK ON ADS No 207: JEAN PAUL GAULTIER'S FRAGANCE

The festive season is the time for scent advertising of a particularly humourless kind; creosote-soaked French voiceovers saying stunningly banal lines against dated totalitarian visions of le style francais. American fragrances - happy, wacky or dippy, however philosophical ("just be") they seem - are driven by the same military instincts. You know those Calvin Klein fashion hippies would turn nasty if you made fun of them.

That's why I have a soft spot for the early-1980s designer Jean Paul Gaultier. He's not exactly seen as leading-edge by the Hoxton fashion collective, but he really likes England - a good sign - and he likes a laugh.

JPG's commercial, like a lot of his stuff, seems to be art-directed by Pierre et Gilles, whose cod low-life Paris sensibility is very cheerful. Against a theatrical backdrop of the sex-industry quarter of olde Paris - "sexy" in pink neon, a moulin on the painted backdrop, a commuter train crossing the bridge ahead - two young beauties are chewing each others faces off with much a deeper mouth action than you'd see with any of Calvin's or Yves's products.

But they're doing it in such a strangely technical way that you wonder if they're sex-industry workers themselves. The girl has piled dark hair and a very brief top. The boy has the standard Gaultier homoerotic kit - white cap-sleeved striped top and tight white trousers.

As the kissing wears on, the girl takes the male part, rocks the boy back on his heels and bends over him. They mix through to the Gaultier torso bottles - the striped male one and the Madonna conical bra and bustier - wobbling about together. These are period classics and much more fun than all those bottles that think they're sculpture. Then back to the submissive boy telling the girl, "You smell nice you know." Whatever your feelings about Eurotrash, JPG has a much more distinctive voice than the standard "fragrance" approach.

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