Peter York on Ads: Max Factor

Cate's ready for her close-up, as long as it's not in Tesco
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The Independent Online

My agent, who knows everything, says Cate Blanchett lives in the next road along from me. But I've never seen her in Tesco Metro, or our new organic butcher, or the Apulian deli. I could perfectly well imagine her choosing traceable meats - she comes across as a pretty grounded kind of Australian who, in another life, might've been, say, a paediatric registrar or Australia's real cultural attaché.

But if I were to meet her in New Quebec Street tomorrow, while I was nosing round the regional salads, how exactly would she be got up? Would she be dressed and groomed and made-up in full-on, film-star style? Or artlessly dishevelled for one of those "I'm a real person off set" pictures in Heat. She's not bothered, is she?

The film-star make-up question is a live, commercial one for Max Factor. In a more deferential age, the brand's association with the ineffable glamour of Hollywood films was a fantastic brand premium. Rochdale mill girls on their nights off wanted to look like Hollywood stars. Make-up itself was a pretty brazen assertion of sexualised modernity. But now there's a huge choice of make-up looks and brand personalities, one for every conceivable segment.

There's high-science and high magic and there's Ruby and Millie for sophisticated Asian babes. There are brands which sell their style and colour ranges such as Chanel, and Cool Britannia ones such as Rimmel, with Kate Moss as its face.

But, year in year out, Max Factor keeps right on with the old story: "The make-up of make-up artists". Typically it has a make-up woman - or man - who did the make-up on a big Hollywood "woman's picture". Here it's someone called Morag Ross and they're focusing on Cate Blanchett, at her most ivory-skinned and movie-starrish, as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.

So there's a lot of outlining of close-up perfect shiny lips. And some crowd scenes and clapper-boards, and - I think this may be a new thing - an exhortation to buy the film now on DVD. Maybe there's even an offer. Is it some sort of tie-in? And who's paying what towards the commercial?

But do women want the silver-screen set-piece, full slap look now? This is a pore-clogging, extra coverage, industrial paint-job, designed for very tough conditions. And not organic shopping at 10am.

PS. Someone's just told me Kenneth Branagh's up the road too, so I'm wondering if he'll be using as much blusher as Tony Blair.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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