Exploring Thierry Mugler Le Parfum Coffret - Boutique Baldini, Amor and Psyche, Nuit Napolitane
Thanks to the kind invitation from Paramount Pictures, last week I was able to attend an advanced screening of Perfume. I am not going to make a fool of myself pretending to be a movie critic and reviewing the film (I am here to make a fool of myself talking about fragrance); I will just say that I thought that Perfume was beautifully, masterfully done, a treat for the eyes. It had a very difficult task, to translate scents described in the book into images, to make them come alive, and I think it achieved its goal admirably. As far as I am concerned, it could have been more forceful, more gruesome; perhaps my threshold of tolerance for disgusting is unnaturally high, but I found Perfume the movie a little on a mellow side, not quite as powerful as the book. For me, the cause of such unexpected mellowness lied in the casting of the main character. Ben Wishaw was so good looking, soulful and frail, that I found myself sympathizing with the man he was playing. I wanted to cuddle, feed, and generally mother poor dear Jean-Baptiste and basically rooted for him throughout all his morbid endeavors. Perhaps that actually was the director’s intention, I don’t know. I just know that I felt nothing but cold indifference and repulsion to Grenouille when I was reading the book. I also found it rather funny that the representatives of the French lower classes in the movie spoke with Cockney accent. I suppose the creators thought that it would be most indicative of the social status and recognizable throughout the (English speaking) world, and come to think of it, a fake French accent would have been infinitely worse.
Of all the fine actors in the movie, I thought that Dustin Hoffman shone the brightest. He portrayed Baldini with wonderful, understated humor and made him into such a believable, human character, that I felt as if the movie lost a lot of its life and sparkle, when Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Giuseppe Baldini met his unfortunate demise. Today’s short reviews of Boutique Baldini, Amor and Psyché, and Nuit Napolitane from Mugler’s Le Parfum Coffret is my salute to the Master.
It was Baldini’s “ambition to assemble in his shop everything that had a scent or in some fashion contributed to the production of scent. (…) The result was that an indescribable chaos of odors reigned in the House of Baldini…the blend of odors was almost unbearable, as if each musician in a thousand-member orchestra were playing a different melody at fortissimo.” * Boutique Baldini, created by Christophe Laudamiel, although not pungent enough to cause “a confusion of senses”, does succeed very well in evoking the mishmash of smells and a claustrophobic atmosphere in the store. Boutique Baldini smells of the frangipani so beloved by the Maitre, over-ripe roses, powdery violets, sweet wine, sandalwood and incense. It is a warm, robust scent, rather attractive and not unwearable but perhaps better off used as a home fragrance. One drop of the thick-smelling perfume on a handkerchief should be enough to conjure the ghost of the stiff, pathetic and proud Baldini, in his wig and a blue coat adorned with gold frogs.
Amor and Psyché was a very successful fragrance created by Baldini’s competitor, Pélissier. It contained lime, orange blossom, attar of rose, clove, musk, jasmine, bergamot, rosemary, musk and storax. Baldini thought that it was “disgustingly good”, “an absolute classic- full and harmonious. (…) It was fresh but not frenetic. It was floral, without being unctuous. It possessed depth, a splendid, abiding, voluptuous, rich brown depth – and yet was not in the least excessive or bombastic.” ** Grenouille, with his immeasurably finer nose, did not consider Amor and Psyche to be quite so wonderful. In fact, he thought it was bad, “there’s too much bergamot and too much rosemary and not enough attar of roses”. To me, Laudamiel’s version of Amor and Psyche smells like a traditional Eau de Cologne, with a bright lime note, the sunny orange blossom and the slightly indolic, sweet jasmine. It is a light, joyful scent with not much depth at all, let alone “voluptuous, rich brown depth”. As the scent progresses, something slightly animalic comes to the surface, a sweet, indolent musk note, which I would have loved to be stronger. It is a beautiful, summery scent, one of the most wearable in the Coffret.
Nuit Napolitane is “the proper perfume” made by Grenouille out of Amor and Psyche. “The scent was so heavenly fine that tears welled into Baldini’s eyes…The perfume was glorious. It was to Amor and Psyche as a symphony is to the scratching of a lonely violin.” It awakened in Baldini “the most sublime memories”, “he saw himself as a young man walking through the evening gardens of Naples; he saw himself lying in the arms of a woman with dark curly hair and saw the silhouette of a bouquet of roses on the windowsill as the night passed by; he heard the random song of birds and the distant music from a harbor tavern; he heard whisperings at his ear, he heard I-love-you and felt his hair ruffle with bliss…”*** Nuit Napolitane by Christophe Laudamiel is simultaneously more citrusy-fresh and “thicker” and sweeter than Amor and Psyche. It has a wonderful, subtly fruity, boozy undertone that I can only compare to the smell of very sweet apple wine. I find it to be less floral than (Laudamiel’s version of) Pélissier’s creation, and at the same time Nuit Napolitane is much more full-bodied, it has more character and smells like no other scent that I know. In words of awe-struck Baldini, “it was something completely new, capable of creating a whole world, a magical, rich world, and in an instant you forgot all the loathsomeness around you and felt so rich, so at ease, so free, so fine…” Nuit Napolitane is at once innocent and sensual, dreamy and full life. Like Amor and Psyche, it is also very wearable.
The coffret can be purchased at Thierry Mugler USA, $700.00 for 15 bottles in a red velvet presentation case.
The stills from the movie Perfume are from perfumemovie.com
*Patrick Süskind, Perfume The Story of a Murderer, Pocket Books New York, 1986. Page 54-55.
** Ditto. Page 73
*** Ditto. Page 101.