| David Lynch and Catherine Deneuve at the Marakesh film festival in Morocco. (AFP)
London, Jan. 4: The avant-garde film director David Lynch, renowned for delving into the dark underbelly of the shiny car and soda fountain culture of small-town America, is selling Nissans in Britain.
In an intriguing commercial move, he has been hired to put the Sunderland-made new Micra on the map with original film advertisements costing millions of pounds.
Giant blue lips will be a central feature, recalling the weirdness of his 1986 hit Blue Velvet, with Dennis Hopper as a madman inhaling gas from a cylinder as he acts out a rape to a Bobby Vinton soundtrack.
The lips will be used to speak what Lynch calls a “new vocabulary” including invented words like modtro (modern and retro), spafe (spontaneous and safe) and smig (small and big).
The director said yesterday: “I think it was Magritte [the surrealist Rene Magritte] who put lips in the sky. This is a bit of the feel of those big beautiful lips speaking in a supermodern and very graphic city.”
The Montana-born Lynch is quite a catch for the car company as, with The Elephant Man, Eraserhead, Dune, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, along with sculpture and painting, he is a renaissance man of modern movies.
He is being joined by Jean-Yves Escoffier, director of photography on films such as The Crow: City of Angels, Nurse Betty, Cradle Will Rock and Good Will Hunting. Escoffier, with his lighting expertise, is creating “an innovative environment”, according to Nissan.
Lynch said: “There is a lot of experimentation in the shooting, so we have many pieces to fit together. Plus, we are building things in 3D for this commercial. The lips have got to be isolated and finessed.”
Chris Garbutt, creative director for the project, said that Lynch and Escoffier used a helicopter in the shooting. A parachute was also used to reflect light from the helicopter to the car.
“All this while fireworks were detonating under the Micra’s wheels. In a shot going down from the top of a building, Lynch introduced a woman character with red hair looking out of a window. It’s these details hat inspire a similar, cool emotion to Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive. Nissan declined to put a figure on the cost of hiring Lynch but confirmed that it would be the most expensive media advertising that it has done, surpassing the £12 million spent last year on the Primera.
The company aims to sell 160,000 Micras a year in Europe, including 40,000 in Britain, hoping to capture 5.3 per cent of its market sector.
Terry Steedon of Nissan said: “The new Micra has a pivotal role to play in the repositioning of the Nissan brand.
The Micra has the highest loyalty factor of any car in its segment.”
Production of the supermini — which has helped to secure 1,300 jobs on Wearside — was started by Tony Blair on a visit to the factory in November. The car will cost between £7,495 and £11,695.
One of the biggest Tinseltown turnarounds of 2001 was David Lynch’s love story Mulholland Drive, which was re-release dafter a gloomy debut in October.
While many movie executives reshuffled film schedules and fretted over box office prospects after September 11, Lynch and Universal Studios’ art-house wing, Universal Focus, chose to go ahead with the debut of Mulholland Drive.
The result: its acclaim from 2001’s Cannes Film Festival (Lynch shared best director honours), generally good reviews and major promotional push, all fell on deaf ears.
The movie was in and out of theatres quickly and grossed just under $6 million at domestic box offices.