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Monday, December 18, 2006

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

*Patrick Süskind, Perfume The Story of a Murderer, Pocket Books New York, 1986. Page 54-55.
** Ditto. Page 73
*** Ditto. Page 101.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaargh! I want that coffret so much. First Victoria slayed me with her description of Virgin No1 and now you with Nuit Napolitaine.
Do you know if Susskind was involved in the making of the movie or the coffret? If he only was a perfumer...

10:46 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I don't know...I don't think he even had to do anything more than he has already done. His prose is so powerful, it lends itself to being translated into fragrance.

10:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful insight into the magnificent coffret. I appreciate your attention to these somewhat neglected scents. I also found your musing on the film perfectly fine tuned with the theme of the blog. I am in no way a movie critic either, but you provided just enough perspective, just enough impression. I must see the film. Thanks Miss Thang.

12:19 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Well, now of course I want to see the movie. As well as sniffing the rest of the coffret.

12:52 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My word verification is px off. Does this mean anything?

Seeing as I'm unlikely ever to sniff these, I'll hold your olfactory impressions in my head. Thanks Marina.

7:15 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Individual releases M. Mugler!! PLEASE! Have some pity on desperate perfumistas w/ sadly shallow pockets. If they would only release more than just Aura separately. Laudamiel has done a brilliant job w/ these and they deserve a wider audience. Nuit Napolitane really is delicious.
And, Tom, if you read this, I did try HE alone and layered w/ CB Musk and MKK. You're right - it really is an interesting, wearable scent after a suitable wait and CB Musk does insist upon being the star of the show when layered w/ it.

7:26 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Great review!!! I agree that the lead was much more goodlooking (and sympathetic) than I had imagined--but that the movie was excellent anyway. I was told that Susskind is pretty much a hermit, and so didn't have a lot to do with the movie or the coffret. At our showing, we had champagne flavored with the "taste equivalent" of Nuit Napolitaine (which I didn't get to smell)--delicious!!
PS The site comes out much better in Firefox than in IE, in which some of the words are eaten up by the red background.

Also--PSA: Moon-fish informs me that Pierre Guillame is depressed b/c he has reached the ripe old age of 30--so he thought we should tell PG how much we love him. Despite any personal feelings I may have about someone of this age feeling old, I do love PG--and I am wearing Querelle today!

7:39 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And my lemming for the book (yes, I'm one of the few who have yet to readt this), the movie, and the coffret grows.... Well, at least two of the three will be fulfilled.

7:54 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

It's been so much fun to read the varying impressions of the coffret.

Viewed away from their background connected to this project -- would you have found any of these three extraordinary?

8:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you very much! The film is definitely worth seeing.

8:53 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I wish I could provide you with a sample of Paris 1738...then I would have dared you to layer it with Human Existence. Not even you, a Skank God, could find that combination bearable. Nah uh. No way.

8:55 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I solemnly swear that I have no control over those verification thingies :-D
I don't think sniffing these is impossible. There'll be swaps and sample sets, I bet you.

8:56 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Mr. Mugler, I secodn what L said. Please release more than just Aura separately. Nuit Napolitane definitely should be released, it would be a success.

8:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Is it PG's birthday today? Poor thing, I know how he feels.

I just opened the blog in IE, strangely enough, it looks the same as in words on the read background come from the review text or do the side columns "leak" into the background? Thank you!!

8:59 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

All three are definitely worth reading, watching, smelling :-)

9:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Of the three I think Boutique Baldini and Nuit Napolitane are remarkable. The former is remarkable as a piece of art and probably not too wearable. The latter is beautiful and very wearable.

9:01 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Ok, now, just to make me look stupid, IE is presenting the blog correctly. But earlier this morning, there was only a thin white column, and the final words of each line leaked (unreadably) onto the red background. But not now. Go figure.

9:16 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

If in doubt, blame Blogger, that is my rule of thumb. :-) They might have been fiddling with something in their system.

9:17 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Saw your comment to Tom. Later today I am going to try layering 1738 and HE. I can never resist a skank challenge and this sounds potentially fascinating. :-)

9:22 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Please don't do it :-) I was just joking...or if you must, at least evacuate those around you :-D The innocent modern bystanders will not survive Human Existence in Paris 1738 :-D

9:24 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant review, beautiful movie and perfumes. I added NN to my must smell list, but did I see the price correctly:)

10:54 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Brilliant idea! I shall wear that combo when I see my darling MIL. :-)

11:32 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Elle- I'm sure I speak for all when I write we all want a full report.

And a body count ;-)

11:53 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

A little on the mellow side actually makes me want to see the movie...I was rather worried about the gruesome factor.

What did you think of Aura? Sounds like it is the only one that will get marketed individually.

12:31 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I almost feel sorry for her. Like Tom, I want a report of how many victims the combo would have :-D

12:33 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Sadly, the price is write. That is for 15 bottles, so theoretically, it isn't that insanely expensive, but gosh, it is a huge sum to part with in one go :-)

12:34 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Me too. I am on the edge of my sit! :-)

12:35 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I went to see it with my MIL, and I was worried that she might find some scenes a little too gruesome, but, although she was more affected by them than I was, she wasn't truly sickened or shocked or anything.

I liked Aura, but I think there are several other very wearable, beautiful scents that they should release separately. NN is one example.

12:36 PM EST  
Blogger Caitlin Shortell said...

I cast another vote for individual release of more scents from le coffret. Thanks for this great review.

3:33 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hope they hear us!

3:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12 Father Frosts, I thoroughly enjoed your write-up! Can't wait to see the movie (hopefully, soon). I just want to know the background for all the coffret scents, forget about the movie itself. ;)

10:49 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I'd recommend the book higher than the movie. However well the movie is done, the book is of course beyond comparison.

10:50 PM EST  

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