The Mill creates impressive face replacements to evoke timeless elegance in Guy Ritchie's new Cartier film
January 25, 2023

The Mill creates impressive face replacements to evoke timeless elegance in Guy Ritchie's new Cartier film

Created in 1996, the Cartier Tank watch is back 27 years later, on the wrists of the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve and actor Remi Malek, directed by Guy Ritchie. The beautiful film shows that even if times change, sometimes elegance remains intact, which is embodied perfectly by French actress Catherine Deneuve.
Artists at VFX studio The Mill were tasked with recreating Deneuve in eight shots at four different periods of her life, inspired of course by her filmography. The challenge was important because this iconic actress evokes different memories and emotions in all of her fans. The public followed her through her career, soaking up her look, her acting, her facial expressions, and her style, and The Mill's artists had to transcribe both her face and her soul.

The Mill's Parisian team was present at the shooting and even during the casting to find the best body double with the closest resemblance. This required a great deal of preparation with the production company Soixante Quinze -- work that paid off. From “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg”  to “Place Vendôme," the film concludes with the actual Catherine Deneuve, as elegant as ever. A very beautiful and complete work, the project required The Mill's artists to combine new technologies like AI with traditional CG techniques.

Shortlisted at the VES Awards in the Outstanding Compositing & Lighting in a Commercial category, this film reminds the Mill that even if they have the best tools and new technologies, the artistic and technical expertise of their artists are truly their best assets.

“Our mission was to recreate Catherine Deneuve in eight shots at four different periods of her life," recalls VFX supervisor Stéphane Pivron. "It was a huge challenge to work with such a great icon, and to do so in the finesse of a given age. About fifteen years ago, I worked on a Dior film where we remade the faces of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Marlene Dietrich. From modeling to rendering, we used a fully CG process at the time. A very long process, convincing, but which lacked a bit of life in the end. That's why, on this project, we turned to AI from the start. This technique has made a huge leap in a few years, and even if it has limitations, it offers a very lively result."

"From the start and given the writing of the project, 'She turns around, and we discover her...'; we knew that AI alone would not be enough because when the face turns, it is technically complex to obtain a good result," Pivron continues. "The second challenge was that the sources we had access to were not necessarily in high definition and sometimes the image was very grainy. That's why we developed a specific pipe for this project, where the CG relies on the life generated by the AI to improve its quality, and to take over when it was no longer efficient."

"We were involved in the project from the very beginning, and we worked closely with the production in all the artistic choices, from the casting, to the adjustments of the wigs and the choice of make-up," Pivron recalls. "We were able to test the faces in AI very early on, and to make sometimes complicated choices between physical resemblance and acting similarities. The perception of Catherine Deneuve is a mix of styling, lighting, acting, and expressiveness: we had to find the right balance each time."

"The production Soixante Quinze, the agency, and the client accompanied us and trusted us throughout the production process," Pivron concludes. "It's a very rich project that combines many different techniques. We decided from the start to work on this project over time with a 100% dedicated team. Some five months between preparation and finalization, where we had time to talk about cinema, and since then, the acting, the plastic, and the filmography of Catherine Deneuve have no secret for us!”

Watch the full Cartier Tank film here:


Director: Guy Ritchie
Production Company: Soixante Quinze
Producers: Emmanuel Guiraud, Annabelle Fournier
Post Producer: Anne Segrettin

VFX Studio: The Mill Paris
Executive Producer: Claire Garraud
VFX Producer: Stéphanie Mollet
VFX Supervisor: Stéphane Pivron
CG Supervisor: Mathias Barday

Editing: Nicolas Larrouquère
Grading: Jean-Clément Sorret (Company 3)
Concept: Nathan Lucas, Alain Descamps

Modeling & Environment: Mehdi Rami
Matte Painting: Fabien Barrau, Sergey Likharyev
Generalist: Adrien Borzakian
Keen Tools: Tytouan Botte

FX: David Roubah
Lighting: Valentin Lesueur
AI: Yanis - French Faker
Compositing: Eric Lemains Guillaume Poueymarie
Flame: Stéphane Pivron, Damien Canameras, Aurélien Teurlai, Valentin Gingembre, Sébastien Kremer, Damien Peiro, Franck Lambertz
Motion Graphics: Agathe Sayegh