A film not worth going 'Psycho' over

Review: Shoe designer Christian Louboutin's directorial debut, "Psychologic," doesn't fit as well as his heels.

There are two schools of thought on how to dress when you wake up in a bad mood.

The first tells you to bury your feelings in folds of sweatshirt material and slip into practical, comfort shoes. The second advises you wear that dry-clean-only number you normally save for cocktail parties, because when you look good, you feel good.  

Christian Louboutin, the French luxury shoe designer known for his red soles, clearly belongs to the latter.

In light of the worldwide economic recession – which essentially has been a year and a half of bad mood mornings – his Highness of Heels has responded by putting his best foot forward: he made a movie.

Model Elisa Sednaoui in Christian Louboutin's "Psychologic."

Louboutin’s directorial debut, Psychologic, is an eight-minute short that re-imagines Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 black and white masterpiece, Psycho. In this shoe-centric version, all the dialogue is cut, the slasher’s weapon is a stiletto (duh) and, instead of murder, the story ends with a gluttonous shopping spree in Louboutin’s new West Hollywood boutique.

What’s billed as a film is really just an eight-minute commercial for the Louboutin store’s opening last month, and a boring commercial at that. The video swept through fashion blogs when it hit the Web and appears to have been intended as a purely viral medium. Louboutin is on trend with other luxury labels, like Chanel, which have produced similar mini-movies as marketing ploys to thrust their products into the public eye.   

But if this film is Louboutin’s cocktail dress, then he seems to have forgotten an important detail about school of thought number two: it helps if you actually look good. Otherwise, you’re wearing a ridiculous cocktail dress and everyone pities you.

Part of what leaves the shoe designer looking silly is the mere audacity of attempting to recreate a Hitchcock classic. It’s a monstrous undertaking. It’s like auditioning for American Idol with a Whitney Houston song. You just don’t do it.

Perhaps Louboutin’s efforts would have been more effective had they not so directly mirrored the original film. Referencing particularly famous screen shots with a subtle hand would make sense. But replicating the climactic shower scene, which frankly has been done too many times anyway, just leaves us wishing we were watching the actual Psycho.

What this first-time director fails to understand is that cinematic allusions work best when they bring a flavor of their own to the reference.

Certainly, Louboutin knows this when it comes to his shoes. You don’t see his store shelves packed with platform pumps straight out of the `70s. No, the prized Louboutin interpretation has a taller heel, a more exaggerated arch and signature accessories, like studs or Swarovski crystals.

The genuinely original spark Louboutin manages to bring forth in Psychologic can only be categorized as such because it is so bizarre. Italian model Elisa Sednaoui’s character escapes the shower attack and crawls across the carpeted hotel room floor, where she happens upon the weapon-ized shoe.

Somehow forgetting it was just stabbing her, Sednaoui clasps the heel in pure ecstasy, and the shot widens to reveal the interior of the Louboutin store. Like Dorothy stepping out into Oz for the first time, Sednaoui rises into a world of color, set to music by flamboyant pop rocker Mika, where she remains for two minutes prancing around with shoes.

Nothing against prancing, but this film’s mediocre celebration of the Louboutin fantasy is not the shrewdest of marketing strategies in a down economy. The shoe designer’s heart may be in the right place, because encountering a bad mood while wearing a cocktail dress reeks of positivity, but his head isn’t.

Even luxury brands are now taking a page from school of thought number one. At the Women’s Wear Daily Luxury Forum last month, brands like Mercedes-Benz and Diane Von Furstenberg reported plans to scale back to basics and reconnect with their core values.

You may have wanted to attack the recession wearing designer duds, Louboutin, but it seems everyone else is wearing sweatshirts.

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