Rami Malek Meets the Many Faces of Catherine Deneuve for Cartier

Time ravages? Deneuve begs to differ

Like a cherry on the Paris Fashion Week cake, Cartier’s come out with a stylish little production that epitomizes that French je ne sais quoi.

Created by Publicis Luxe for Cartier, the work is directed by Guy Ritchie and features Rami Malek and Catherine Deneuve. Malek appears, smartly dressed, on the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, traversing the Right and Left Banks. He encounters a variety of Catherine Deneuves, spanning decades of her epic filmography from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to Place Vendôme.

CG's come a long way, especially when it comes to resurrecting past stars and stitching them into the present. Of course, Deneuve is still alive and well. Malek encounters the real one at a traffic stop after crossing the Seine. They share a moment of acknowledgement before she shoots off in her futuristic car. The spot includes glances at their respective Cartier Tank wristwatches, and it ends with the release dates of both the Tank (1917) and the Tank Française (1996).

An accompanying video features Deneuve and Malek asking each other questions. This exchange casts further nuance on the ad. The latter—Ritchie's love letter to the Nouvelle Vague and the City of Lights—is also a tribute to Deneuve, whose work informs our sensibilities of both. The conversation between Deneuve and Malek doesn’t just feel like an interview between actors. Instead, we watch a fusion of generations and cinematic universes, American and French.

It’s also a conversation between two relationships to Paris, and to French cinema: The iconic, elegantly blasée Deneuve, born in Paris; and Malek, who embodies a youthful longing for (and projection of) what Frenchness is from the outside. 

Asked, for example, what time periods they’d travel to, Deneuve selects the 16th-17th centuries. “Le temps des lumières”—the Enlightenment, she says, an answer that can’t help but create its own projections. She’s evoking a certain erudite Frenchness, the kind that erupts in lubricated, elaborate arguments in Parisian streetside cafés. There’s an expression for this: Refaire le monde, or “to remake the world”—a way of talking about deep conversations where everyone becomes a philosopher.

“I always romanticized being in Paris in the ‘20s,” Malek responds. 

“Oh yeah?” Deneuve seems surprised.

“Yeah. I think it was very romantic, very exuberant,” he says.

The period he’s referring to was constructed in great part by the so-called “Lost Generation,” expats contriving a Paris for the outside world through art and letters: Picasso, Dalì, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Alice B. Toklas. His reference, at another point, to Café Le Flore—a famous Lost Generation outpost, now inundated by relentless tourism—solidifies the difference between their perspectives. Deneuve is of Paris. Malek represents every francophile romantic whose Paris is informed by a pastiche of art and cinema, to which Deneuve herself contributed.

There is, of course, the larger question of what this all has to do with Cartier. The luxury brand was founded in Paris in 1847; there’s less than 100 years between its birth and Deneuve’s. When you’ve lived in Paris for a long time, it’s hard to imagine a brand more connoted with subtle signs of French society. Cartier engagement rings adorn upper-middle-class hands, a signal of belonging that is difficult to ignore once noticed. In certain families, a Cartier watch—likely a Tank—may traditionally be gifted to a child who turns 18. 

Like Deneuve—who served as a model for a version of Marianne, the symbolic face of the French Republic—Cartier has contributed to French codes of class, culture and social stratification. Those elements must be lived to be understood. But like Deneuve’s body of work, you can consume Cartier’s wares and take on a bit of that halo for yourself. You can be like Malek, indulging in a fantasy.

That’s not a knock on Malek, or fantasy. It, too, adds a stone to the edifice of French culture, even for the French. In the same way it would be unthinkable to have a bathroom in one’s home without a mirror, it’s hard to know what Paris would be without our vivid reflections of what we think it is.

Other campaign content includes a behind-the-scenes clip, plus a brief interview with Ritchie:

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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