The Pause or the Pose

Anything, Paternoster, Murder, Paper Plane, and Photoshoot are the titles of 5 short films written and directed by the prestigious director Win Wenders to present the 2018 Spring/Summer collection of the German fashion brand Jil Sander, in this case, designed by the duo Luke and Lucie Meier. Wenders adds himself to a long list of directors that, in any point of their careers, between one film and the other, collaborate with renowned brands on a commissioned advertising campaign. Wes Anderson, for example, filmed for American Express, Martin Scorsese for Dolce & Gabbana, Sofia Coppola for Christian Dior and David Lynch for Calvin Klein, just to name a few. The Challenge for this kind of cinema, besides showing the products or commodities that they sell, as well as transmitting the philosophy, spirit and core of each brand, is to make a film that, not only looks like a candy for the eye but also have their signature as authors. Paused by, which is the title of the entire series, seems to pass the test and fit into this particular category.  

Jil Sanders is a sophisticated, trendy and luxurious fashion firm created back in 1969, and who’s name comes from her original founder, the German designer Heidemarie Jiline Sander, better known as the “Queen of Less”, “Mother of Purism” and the first “Fashion Feminist”. Committed to an androgen style and a high level of perfection, she remains one of the top fashion houses in the world and a reference for other designers. Wenders seems to be the perfect match for this editorial task. First of all, using a contrasted palette, both, between each short –night and evening scenes plenty of vibrant colors, versus more pale and desaturated ambiences–, and then, inside each film –vivid neon’s, flashing lights and exuberant complementary colors for two of them, and dark and light, black and white clothes, in the one of the elevator and the restaurant–. Secondly, this binary structure, is also present in the constant switch between interior and exterior locations and more obviously showed in the choreography of entrances and exits of the characters in the Paternoster (lift of open compartments). This tactic or leitmotif by oppositions, that is clearly used by Wenders in his movie Paris Texas, starting by the title and continuing with the colors and psychology of the protagonists, suits (like good clothing) perfectly into the blurriness of gender that Sanders has established since the beginning of her venture. It also reinforces the idea of an apparel collection that can be used at work or in special occasions, at night or in the day, outside or inside and so on, erasing boundaries or categories, as well as depicting freedom.

All the scenes take action in different spaces of a contemporary and bourgeois city of Berlin, with a bizarre but sophisticated aesthetic, aiming to a liberal, young cultivated and sybarite consumer. The same 4 characters (2 girls and 2 men), beautiful and diverse looking young models, probably around their mid 30’s, appear in every short film switching positions, roles and actions. The only different one is a man dressed on a scuba diving suit and carrying a goldfish on a plastic bag as well as a pair of flippers. He becomes the mysterious element of the plot and scenario. What is very appealing in all of the sequences is the continuous movement of the framing in a vertical axis. A man that looks down into the street, a girl observing a photography session in a lower apartment after watching two industrial chimneys at a high level and through a window; an ongoing elevator (Paternoster) that moves up and down in the same cadence; The camera showing the upper side of the body and then the down one. All, unusual movements in a traditional cinema montage, that will recur mostly to horizontal travelling’s. For me, this has to do with the way we look at clothes and outfits on a person body, usually from top to bottom. This same vision pan put us in the position of a fashion show spectator and the well-known scenography where high fashion is shown: the walkway.  

This idea gets reinforced by the end of each film where a pause is made, which goes back to the name of the series. While Wenders explain this as a way to get the viewer curious by the narrative possibilities of each excerpt, specifically its continuation, I think that it goes beyond. I think of it as a word game and as a conscious gesture to make us think of that second were the models stop and turn 45 degrees at the end of the walkway, with the spotlights over them and their eyes looking to an infinite. The pose instead of the pause. A clever twist of homophone words that somehow, for me, is the one that connects the two worlds depicted here. The world of cinema as a storytelling and time-based medium, in comparison with the fashion industry as the capture of instant beauty and photogene. In other words, two different ways of measuring and understanding time and timing. While films want to transmit an idea, generate an ambient, tell a story and develop a plot through the extension of time, fashion is in the quest for an instant, a right angle, the perfect fold or the sexy smile. Furthermore, while films seem to be timeless, fashion is more like a decisive moment, a present statement. A strategy that is also achieved by the anxious rhythm of the soundtrack, composed by Laurent Petitgand and that helps generate that tempo before the pose, or the pause.

Because of these main reasons, I think that Wenders accomplish the difficult task of making an appealing series of films for his followers, as well as a clever advertising for the market niche that the brand addresses. Even if we could be more critical of this moral dilemma between commercial objectives and art-making, the way he does it seems to resolve the problem. Finally, I would like to open this brief analysis with an idea that Wenders touches in another short documentary made by Hubert Woroniecki about these pieces, where he says that these 5 short films function as Haikus (short form of Japanese poetry). This explanation helps to understand the game of words that I previously enunciated but also guide us through a reading of Win Wenders as a film poet or post- conceptualist. An author that can deconstruct film as if it was language, and immediately I think in the film Pina Bausch but also in the subtle play with the word A N Y T H I N G, that appears both in the window of one of the characters and in the smartphone of one of the girls. As with the Haikus, if you understand their form and logic, then you can do anything with it.