Bottle Racket

All those so-called hipsters fervently awaiting Wes Anderson’s follow-up to The Life Aquatic don’t need to obsessively check IMDb; starting next week, they just have to turn on the TV. Mr. Anderson’s latest oeuvre won’t be yet another campy comedy starring a morose Bill Murray-rather, he’s been enlisted by Coca-Cola to direct four 30-second television ads for their Dasani bottled-water brand.

In January, Mr. Anderson spent two days filming the $1 million project at the Silvercup Studios in Long Island City. And when the spots break next week, the series will enter regular rotation in prime time with such high-profile buys as the NCAA basketball tournament, broadcast on CBS.

The ads were created by independent New York agency Anomaly, a nine-month-old boutique firm based out of a Hudson Street loft. In a coup last August, Anomaly won the $20 million Dasani account-making it the youngest firm to get a slice of Coke’s $2 billion annual marketing budget.

“I wrote the spots intending them to be directed by Wes. We rolled the dice that he would direct,” said Ernest Lupinacci, a partner and creative director at Anomaly who wrote and conceived the television campaign.

The commercials each star an actor clad in a schlocky animal costume shilling for Dasani. The spots unfold on oversized sets of Brobdingnagian scale and Andersonian attention to detail. In one spot, a guy dressed in a cocker-spaniel outfit flops through a dog door into a giant kitchen with a stove towering nine feet off the floor and discovers his first sip of Dasani water. With one swig, he immediately evangelizes the improvement in taste over tap water. In another spot, a Type-A woman in a hamster costume frenetically churns a hamster wheel with all the sweat-soaked fervor of a gym-addled Manhattanite. She crows about how she can’t drink enough Dasani. The third and fourth ads in the series star a bear who praises Dasani’s pure taste over the water he gulps out of his local mountain stream.

“You can’t believe the dry mouth you wake up with after three months of hibernation,” he says as he takes a sip.

“The idea behind the spots was that if you found someone who only drank water, and if they drank this water, it would be so much better,” Mr. Lupinacci said. “It dawned on me: My dog only drinks water. Animals are the perfect spokespersons for bottle water. Playfully, it’s like the classic testimonials. We liked the idea of being in your face. Except if we just had a person talking about the product, that would be a drag.”

Mr. Anderson, now 35, leapt to auteur status as a 26-year-old budding filmmaker from the University of Texas with his 1996 cult classic Bottle Rocket. And purists who may accuse him of selling out should know that the Dasani spots are not Mr. Anderson’s first forays into advertising. In 1999, he directed a television ad for Sony, and he followed up that effort with a 2002 spot for Ikea. Mr. Lupinacci said that the Dasani spots will be the most recognizable examples of Mr. Anderson’s signature style.

“In the age of the cynical consumer who is overmarketed to, the best thing is to be very up-front. But you have to do it in a way that’s unexpected,” Mr. Lupinacci said. “With Wes, maybe it’s just semantics, but this isn’t just a commercial-it’s a question of filmmaking. I optimistically and intuitively felt these spots are character-driven. There’s humor, but there’s also a heartfelt story.”

Mr. Anderson was traveling in Europe and was not available to comment on the Dasani campaign.

-Gabriel Sherman

Sacre Bleu!

The drinks portion of the evening was almost over on March 10 when French actress Catherine Deneuve walked into Restaurant Daniel, where the French Institute Alliance Française of New York was hosting a benefit called La Nuit Des Etoiles, a “star-studded festival dinner,” according to the press release. But despite competition from talk-show host Charlie Rose, actor Geoffrey Holder, novelist Louis Begley and the cultural counselor of the French Embassy, everyone’s attention was focused on Ms. Deneuve, who looked very regal in an 80’s-style short black satin dress with long sleeves and a boat neck.

The eyes wandered up from the tight skirt to the upper body part, which was big and billowy and hid her twilight-years heft. Now onto the hair. This was not the same sweep she had in 1965’s Repulsion, the kind more than a few men died for.

It’s shorter now. Bouffant.Teased.Styled. Golden. Gorgeous, like candy.

And it had a certain ….

A young lady publicist helped us out with a description.

“It’s very dykey-but in a glamorous way,” she said. “I think it would make just about anyone look dykey, especially when you’re top-heavy. It’s also a little helmet-heady, like Hillary Clinton. Makes her head look enormous. She’s had a tiny amount of plastic surgery, but it’s the kind that isn’t obvious.”

The paparazzi were howling for Ms. Deneuve to look their way.

“She looks like Jane Pauley,” said a slightly jaded socialite, a regular at events such as this one. “If you were walking down Park Avenue and she walked by, you wouldn’t even look at her. She’s top-heavy. She’s wearing black stockings-why? And she shouldn’t have cut her hair. I don’t think so, but other people have told me she looks a little butch. She’s still beautiful.”

Ms. Deneuve took a seat at a banquet by the bar with three female pals. Now she was looking really laid-back and normal as she puffed her thin cigarette. She was kind of slouched and seemed to be enjoying herself, perhaps laughing at the event and the pretension of it all.

There were reporters nearby from The New York Times, the New York Post and the Daily News, but none seemed anxious to pester Ms. Deneuve.

Last month, the 61-year-old gave an interview in which she said that women generally work harder on relationships, but that there’s no such thing as eternal love. “Women are more determined to make things work whatever,” she said. “Men, they would like love, but I don’t think they really work hard at it. It’s not the main thing in their life.”

After more champagne, The Transom leaned over to ask Ms. Deneuve how American men were ignorant about love and making love.

“What? What? I don’t understand the question,” she said.

What advice would she give American men on love?

“You must be joking!” she said. “I don’t give advice in general, and I would certainly not give advice on such private matters.”

From 10 feet away, it would have been impossible to detect that Ms. Deneuve was annoyed-she was-but she sure kept her cool. Maybe, we thought, she was playing the role of the beautiful French diva berating the clueless press weasel. So we apologized for our first hopeless, idiotic attempt at conversation, then asked if she thought George Bush might be a good lover based on his performance in the Middle East.

“How dare you to ask a question like that!” Ms. Deneuve said softly under her breath-as if not to waste an ounce of energy, let alone cause a scene. “In such a difficult time, when there was even a bombing yesterday, with 30 Americans, people hurt,” she continued, still not raising her voice, “how can you ask such a question? Do you think [because] I’m a French woman, I’m supposed to answer only about love and sex and things like that?”

Again, we apologized.

Ms. Deneuve took a nice long pull, quietly exhaled, “Mon Dieu!” and looked away.

-George Gurley


To the thump of a Madonna song playing somewhere in her own head, a woman wearing pink stockings, fingerless lace gloves and precious little else writhed around Saturday night on the second floor of an otherwise staid and dignified gallery opening on the Upper East Side. The crowd looked on, admiring what most assumed was a curious but sure-to-be-edifying instance of performance art at the newly relocated Jack Tilton gallery. So what have we got here? The Transom wondered: Is it something provocative about corruption in corporate America? The latest bohemian response to Abu Ghraib? A dramatic unshackling of the feminine libido?

No. False alarm. It’s just a drunk hipster belting out lines from “Like a Prayer” and tearing off her clothes.

Life is a mystery, she sang, and we thought: If only. For it quickly dawned on the 50 people now choking down twice-baked potatoes that the dancer wasn’t wearing anything under her skirt.

“What’s that?” asked one horrified attendee. “Dear God, it’s pubic hair.”

Guests had come from far and wide-from blocks over and up, on Madison or in the 80’s-to see the show, which served as a preview for Mr. Tilton’s swanky new digs. For most of the evening, the party had all the solemnity of a State Department dinner, duly befitting the ambiance of the neighborhood. It was a gathering for grown-ups (incidentally, please just step over the two boys hiding behind a sculpture playing with a Gameboy, with the sound politely turned off, up on the second floor). But then our stripping soprano came along, shattering the glassy stillness of the event and provoking gasps of indignation from a crowd of people gently sipping demi-glasses of white wine.

“Maybe I could see this happening in Chelsea,” murmured A.C. Hudgins, an art collector, as he looked on, nearly speechless. “Usually, you’d expect to see something like that downtown. But not on the Upper East Side. It’s typically so tony up here.”

Which is why, bucking the trend of art dealers moving to million-dollar concrete-and-glass studios in the West 20’s, Mr. Tilton has become the lone gallery owner to swim upstream to the original heart of the Manhattan arts scene. He followed the pack to Soho years ago, then relocated when they did to Chelsea, and has now abandoned what he calls “a strip mall of big-box galleries” for an ornate brownstone on East 76th Street.

“This is probably the classiest part of town on a lot of levels, whether it be architectural or otherwise,” he told The Transom. “From my point of view, I also wanted to get away from the generic, mall-like situation of Chelsea.”

“Jack has been talking about moving back here for 10 years,” said artist David Scher, who had one piece, a book of sketches, in the opening. “When you’re on the Upper East Side, customers can just stop by at their convenience, pick up a handbag, come by the gallery, rather than getting in a cab and heading all the way down to Chelsea.”

And speaking of handbags, that’s precisely what one woman had thwacked into the side of a sculpture a few minutes earlier. The Transom caught Mr. Scher as he was picking up little metal bits that, until the thwacking, had magnetically adhered to the sculpture. While discreetly placing a clump of rusty screws and bottle caps back roughly where they belonged, he continued to praise the virtues of Mr. Tilton’s classy new locale.

“The dealers keep scaling up,” he said. “The galleries feel like they have to keep getting bigger and nicer. Actually, I don’t know that it’s all that good. I still think that art usually inhabits places where people are not looking for art.”

Such as the middle of a room in the middle of a gallery, where you’d never expect to see a woman dancing naked in a puddle of wine she spilled on the floor.

Looking over, we caught a look of delirium-laced regret in the impromptu stripper’s eyes as she slumped momentarily onto a neighbor. A far more dignified woman wearing mirrored shoes and what another guest referred to as her “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream trousers” stared in awe as a tank top began to make its way up. “Is that a nipple ring?” an attendee asked, terrified.

No, good citizens of the upper echelon, it wasn’t a nipple ring. The tank top was repositioned, and for an instant, it seemed, the minor mishap-an escaped bit of flesh and glimpse of nether-region-would fade away in whispers at this evening of art and portobello mushroom sandwiches. But then our guest Courtney Love–alike made clear that she would not be silenced by a few stuffy idiots talking in inside voices and drinking in moderation. It’s art, for chrissake. And with art, there are always boobs, liberated by liquor, out where they shouldn’t be, pointing around at paintings they don’t understand and could never afford.

And so the whole crowd learned a bitter aesthetic truth in the course of this manic striptease: It was not one nipple ring … it was two.

-Rebecca Dana

Snail Male

After 72 minutes of burning snails, Shirley Temple photos, naked women in elephant masks, Charles Manson ditties and a cast comprised of people with Down syndrome, the viewer naturally begins to search for meaning-right? Good luck.

“There’s a dictatorial element of what people are supposed to think,” said director Crispin Hellion Glover at the East Coast premiere of his long-awaited indie art film, What Is It?

On March 13 at the Anthology Film Archives, Mr. Glover appeared plucked from a Weimar-era cabaret, striding across the stage in a dark three-piece suit, answering audience questions with lengthy diatribes. Two sold-out screenings of his film highlighted the 12th Underground Film Festival. Tickets went on sale before noon on Sunday and were snatched up in under half an hour by diehard fans, who filed into the 200-seat theater and began swilling the free, tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that were given out in the lobby. Sponsored by The Onion and Index Magazine, the film not surprisingly brought out Lower East Side kids, aging cinephiles and surely a few know-it-all video-store clerks.

For over two decades, the iconoclastic actor has developed a cult following by acting in more than 30 films-from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart to famously playing the geeky George McFly in Back to the Future. In What Is It?, he plays “Dueling Demi-God Auteur” and “The Young Man’s Inner Psyche.” For Mr. Glover, this project-almost 10 years in the making-takes on added significance. By acting in mainstream films (and hanging on the set with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore), he has the ability to finance projects that react against the “pro-cultural-film state.” He spent between $125,000 and $150,000 on the film, and explained how he wanted to cast actors with Down syndrome to show that it was a viable idea.

That’s understandable, but what about the graphic sex, smashed watermelons, crushed snails and Nazi imagery? Apparently, a few moviegoers also questioned his motivation for using such taboo images, and whether there was a method behind the madness. Unfortunately, Mr. Glover wasn’t interested in discussing those questions, letting The Transom know that he prefers longer profiles. Perhaps only then would he have the platform to discuss his many, many perceptions about society and culture. And besides, who wants to have to dictate meaning to a lowly newspaper scribe?

-Michael Calderone Bottle Racket