Karl Lagerfeld’s film Reincarnation is something of a failed science experiment. Make a list of the materials, and you wouldn’t be wrong to hypothesize stunning results. The film is set in an Austrian hotel and stars the prince of the music industry, Pharrell, as a bellboy and fashion’s leading lady, Cara Delevingne, as a waitress. It also stars 70-year-old Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin, who plays Gabrielle Chanel at the time of her comeback. Pharrell and Delevingne perform a duet entitled “CC for the World,” which the Happy Hat-Wearer wrote specially for the film. All the ingredients are there. But the chemistry isn’t right.
The story is this: Wait, no, the story seems to be this, after watching the film and reading up on it across a handful of online publications: It’s 1954 and Gabrielle Chanel is on holiday in Austria. She leaves hastily from dinner in the dining room, where Cara is a server and, because she’s Cara, a troublemaker (she pushes a handsome server while he’s carrying plates—not funny, but sad). Gabrielle takes the key to her room and before stepping onto the elevator, she’s captivated by the bellboy’s… lower jacket? Her gaze is so pointedly downward that I considered for a moment whether Gabrielle would come back down to seduce him in a negligee once the hotel has gone to sleep.
But instead, when night falls, the royal paintings on the wall come to life and share a waltz. Pharrell is Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and Delevingne plays his wife, Empress Elisabeth “Sisi,” which lends some explanation to the lyrics and title of their duet. Despite the real-life friendship between the stars, their chemistry is neither romantic nor platonic, but more so absent and awkward. In the morning, when the portraits are paintings again, Gabrielle comes down from her room and asks the bellboy where he got his jacket, to which he responds, “They only made it for me.” Then comes the epiphany. Gabrielle declares, “Well, I am going to make it, for me. “ And so the iconic Chanel jacket is born. I guess.
The song “CC for the World,” is inspired by classic Austrian music, plus Pharrell’s own sound. While the song isn’t great, Cara’s voice was a pleasant surprise. Like her speaking voice, her singing voice is raspy and deep. I’ll be curious where else she takes her chops. As for Lagerfeld, I won’t be looking out for any more of his films. Let’s motion to keep him off the red carpet, and on the runway.
Reincarnation premiered ahead of Chanel’s Metiers d’Art show in Salzburg, Austria on December 2nd.