solaris 5
















The terrifying, and profoundly affecting, central conceit in Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris (made subsequently into brilliant, if entirely differing, film adaptations by Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh) is the idea that we are, essentially, how others see us. Although this is hardly a new notion, especially for anyone who has studied existentialism or simply spent time analyzing the human condition, it is still put into very painful relief in the form of Rheya, the wife of the main protagonist and scientist, Kris Kelvin, a man who finds himself investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of scientists on board a spacecraft that is being inexplicably magnetized, radiated and manipulated by Solaris, the planet the spaceship is currently in the process of orbiting: an insidious, nocturnal, interference that manifests itself in the form of night visitations to the surviving crew members by people that they left behind on earth, many years ago, mostly dead.



They return, to visit their loved ones, looking and seeming identical, the planet’s advanced intelligence scanning each crew member’s memories of that person and reproducing them with perfect fidelity, except, and most crucially, for the fact that they only have that person’s memory to go by. Meaning that the replicant being – unmalevolent, new, unaware of his or her condition – feels strangely, and excruciatingly lacking: sensing, and suffering, from the fact that vital parts of their mechanism – their soul if you like – are missing, for the simple, yet deadening, reason that their reborn, reassembled selves are composed, solely, of one other person’s limiting, self-serving and subjective, view point.




As the implications of the narrative begin to unfold, I always find this to be quite a horrifying idea. Where the myriad of components of our personalities, some concealed, some revealed, some unformed, some exaggerated, are in a perpetual flux of opposities and contradictions, moods and nuances – an ever evolving, constantly shifting mass of contrasting moods and perceptions, the Solaris projection is fixed: locked: and limited, simplified annihilatingly by the absorbent and moulding – if loving –  gaze of another. We are trapped, in other words, in their vision; undeserved: simplified: trashed. I may be wild and anarchic, a hooligan, libertarian: rude, vain, aggressive, irrational, a dreamer inclined towards decadence and crazed romanticism – but I can also be conservative, quiet, logical, removed, and actually, to the surprise of some people, really rather introverted. Both libidinous and chaste. Stupid and intelligent. Compassionate yet vindictive. Spiritual, yet a hedonist. Multifaceted. Just like anyone.





And although it may seem like a somewhat spurious link, I think the ideas presented in Solaris are also connected, in some ways, to perfume and personality: signature scents, other people’s associations of us, and the varied, unfaithful, and promiscuous lives of the true and collecting perfumist. Unlike the civilians on the street, who usually probably have just one, or possibly two scents, often given to them by somebody else as a gift (can you imagine having your signature scent conferred on you? my mind thrashes instinctively in protest and rejection even imagining this), just to wear………. because, we ‘smell sensitives’ bond far more deeply with the scents that we have identified with and chosen for ourselves – knowingly -and use them, often, to externalize and exteriorize our internal feelings (….why do we do this? To reinforce them? Double them? Colour them and decorate them, make them manifest? What weird, space-probing extroversion is this exactly?).






When we feel erotically inclined, we know what to wear, precisely, to boost the body’s arsenal. Extroverted, gregarious, attention-seeking: they’ve got my name on them. Comforting, sweet……oh yes. Mysterious and complex….something vintage and difficult; impenetrable, androgynous, and cloaky, from my antique Japanese cabinets. Then, another day……. simplicity, to strip ourselves right down to the bright rind frisks of the lemon, the yuzu; iciness, colournessness. Negation; nihilism even – I Hate Perfume’s Black March, with its bleakness of black-branched, crow-cawing sky; its hints of death, of soil, and of winter.






So while we may have our standard, essential, familiar-to-others base character – in my case probably patchouli, vanilla, tropical flowers, and coconut, and I admit that these are the smells I most readily identify with (party boy: heat: dancing: summer), we all, all of us, have our secret sides, our private sides, our unexpecteds, our anti-intuitives – our mood-changers, if you like: the perfume that is our rebellion against type. Our clandestine, impenetrable, refuge.














Rheya, in Solaris, is trapped, tragically, in her grieving husband’s remembrances of her, which centre around three pivotal characteristics. Firstly, her sensuality (less so in the Tarkovsky, but especially in Soderbergh’s version of the story – one of my favourite films of all time, incidentally, starring a beautiful, sad and bereft George Clooney as Kelvin, and the compelling, eerie Natascha McCelhone as his dead wife . We see their first chance meeting, on a train, and she is mystery and salvation itself; alluring; intellectual, all eyes and try-to-get-me gestures). Her strange beauty, which has such a hold over him, is the principle affirmation in her alien reincarnation. But also there is poetry, for this is what they bond over, initially – their shared love of Dylan Thomas’ ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’:









And death shall have no dominion.

Dead men naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.






And death shall have no dominion.

Under the windings of the sea

They lying long shall not die windily;

Twisting on racks when sinews give way,

Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;

Faith in their hands shall snap in two,

And the unicorn evils run them through;

Split all ends up they shan’t crack;

And death shall have no dominion.







And death shall have no dominion.

No more may gulls cry at their ears

Or waves break loud on the seashores;

Where blew a flower may a flower no more

Lift its head to the blows of the rain;

Though they be mad and dead as nails,

Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;

Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,

And death shall have no dominion.









Mostly, though, what Kelvin seems to remember about his long-disappeared wife, now, is her depressive and hypersensitive nature, her strong, and ultimately fatal suicidal tendencies (he finds her dead in bed following a row, and is guilt-stricken and destroyed as a result). Rheya is thus confined to these three, simplified characteristics in her resurrected incarnation; a truncated, edited person, limited by his own projections of what she represented for him personally. Convinced, the first time, by the other vehement crew members to get rid of ‘it’,  sending the cloned version of his beloved out to her death into the lifeless atmosphere outside, Kelvin nevertheless again has numerous re-visitations by this wife-clone, this hampered, uncomplex creature who feels all the lacks in her constituents, keenly, painfully, to the extent that she no longer wants to ‘live’ any more because her memories, and her sensations, don’t feel like her own ( despite the love that they still feel, inexorably, between them). The scientist, is too profoundly overjoyed, however, to have been given another chance at redemption – even if it is by an alien life form that is tampering with his insecurites – and is unable to let her die again. And as expected, he pays the ultimate sacrifice as a result (or does he? The film is steeped in ambiguity and the lovers, in whatever form they have taken, seem to be destined for eternity……..ultimately, though ostensibly a science fiction film, I think of Solaris as a deeply haunting love story). The Soderbergh version is one of the most hypnotic films I have ever seen, actually, largely due to the set design, atmosphere, and the throbbing, shimmering soundtrack by Cliff Martinez, while the Tarkovsky, original film from 1972 is almost too intolerably exquisite for me to bear: profound perfection, but deeply depressing, touching some chord in me that I wasn’t entirely sure I needed to be touched. It sits there waiting in my film collection to be re-viewed, but where I have seen the Soderbergh version probably at least six or seven times, The Tarkovsky will just have to wait until I can steel myself again fully, to its beautifully, searing, unalloyed, unflinching poetry.






Essentially, I am fascinated by the theories at the heart of this story, of the limiting nature of human-to-human interaction, how we box people, categorize them, reduce them to one, defining buzzword, feeling, trait. Even on the blogosphere, among the perfume cognoscenti, we know the essential tastes of the better known writers, can imagine this one person constantly sashaying about in a tart, trumpeting tuberose; that one in an essential oil of Laotian oud, another in Indonesian vanilla, even if they are guaranteed in reality to be as complex, and conflicting in their desires and fantasies as we ourselves are. Maybe they also, like myself, need their rebellious sanctuaries, reactions against type, smells to help them escape the confining, and suffocating, constraints of society, stereotype, and ‘personality’, to be freed.






And I think that Hermès Narcisse Bleu, which I smelled for the third time yesterday in a Japanese department store and loved ( I will need to buy it), might be one of those saviours: those tranquil, nerve-calming smells of cool, stalactitian antidote: the shady undergrowth where I suddenly want to be not what is expected of me; to rebel internally and from without, to be invisible, swimming silently, more subtle……The Blue Narcissus, this time, not the Black.






This is a perfume that is austere; aloof, removed: almost daringly, and revitalizingly cold. Though the notes are listed simply as being of narcissus and galbanum over woods, I was reminded immediately of the melancholy distance of Hermès Hiris (one of my other go-to ‘refuge’ scents), as well as the green and beautiful escape chute that is Geoffrey Beene’s violet-leaved Grey Flannel. I smell iris, and green notes, and something crisp, unsweetened, even bitter and tannic in this scent- it almost repels you, startlingly, with its aversion to the the sweet, even while it draws you in with its understated, arcadian elegance. It speaks to me directly, and will be a portal. To my grotto, a place you can’t touch. A place of isolation, peace, solitude. My anti-reference point. My blue lagoon.














Filed under Flowers


  1. ann

    This is a beautiful piece of writing, thank you. I been reading your blog for some time and really enjoy it….the film and Japan posts are brilliant. Love Hiris but it is for those reclusive days.

  2. Persolaise

    Thanks for this Neil 🙂 And I’m so pleased that someone else loves the Soderbergh Solaris. Wasn’t it panned when it was first released? I need to watch it again.

    I’m almost ashamed to confess that I’ve never seen the Tarkovsky version!

    And as for Narcisse Bleu… yes, a very special, deceptively simple piece of work.

    • I am utterly delighted that you like this film, for some reason. More than the Madonna connection. And more than any perfume connection. These days, low ratings, if things are panned, it often means, strangely, that the film is good. Seriously.

  3. Lilybelle

    Oh my! I am swept away by that, Neil. What a wonderful post. I’ve never seen Solaris, but now I will make sure I do, both versions. And I want to try Blue Narcisse. “A refuge scent”.

  4. Tora

    How have I not read this book!!?? Seen this movie!!?? My favorite poet is Dylan Thomas (with Yeats running a close second). And Death Shall Have no Dominion is my second favorite after The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower. Grabbing my kindle right now to order this book. Beautiful, gorgeous review ,Neil.

    • Tora! Tora! Tora!

      Before you rush into Amazon madness, I would imagine that the Dylan Thomas references were a Soderbergh addition to the screenplay (he plays freely with the story and makes it his own). As the original was in Polish ( I have never read it, incidentally), there will surely be No Dominion.

      Having said that, the ideas behind the essential story, as I said, fascinate me, and the Soderbergh version is pure HYPNOSIS. The Russian version by Tarkovsky is 100% art movie: one hundred percent from the gut, but difficult viewing. So glacial. So slow!

  5. theasceticlibertine

    And we agree on yet another film! 🙂 I have yet to see the original Solaris (heathen, I), but I’ve long thought the Soderbergh version was exquisite and much-maligned for no good reason. I loved the soundtrack so much I bought it, and used it to wake me up every morning for at least a year. As others have said, this is a beautiful piece of writing, and I particularly enjoy the way you are able to connect the world of film to the world of perfume. It is all sensual, I suppose, though in different ways. As far as all of us containing multitudes, that’s why my handle is my handle. I’m ascetic, and a libertine, sometimes both, sometimes neither. As far as the juice, I will have to take a gander at Bergdorf’s new Hermès area (just re-done!) to see if I can get a whiff of Narcisse Bleu. I happen to think Hiris is lovely but I’ve only had a brief encounter with it so far.

    • Great minds think alike.

      Not only is the soundtrack my very favourite of all time (along with Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo), I bought the CD twice: one for me, and one for my brother. He also adores it and uses as music to sleep to. The use of the steel drums in that silvery context is so spectacular, and matched with the emptiness of Clooney’s eyes (I think he is brilliant in this film – he embodies male beauty, sadness, and helplessness so amazingly), him just staring out along those corridors (such set design!) to this music (which I am listening to now as I write this), makes for a truly dream-drenched, cathartic experience.

      The first time I saw it, Duncan was in Taiwan, and I was in a terrible mood, having had a bad week at work, alone, pissed off, and I remembering renting several films from the video store, hating them all, getting drunk, feeling furious, and then I thought oh go on then, let’s put on this slated film that everyone says is shit, and it just pinned me to the floor. I was mesmerized, hooked, and deeply affected by it, and went out to Tokyo the very next day to get the CDs. I HAD to have that music.

      And it has taught me something very important: seriously, though I know it seems as though I am being deliberately contrarian, I honestly am not, but if a film has a very high rating on metacritic now, it probably means that I will hate it. When the critics concur, it usually means that the film has reached some form of mutually acceptable blandness or ‘correctness’. To not let myself become prejudiced or set in my thinking, however, I do see these films anyway just to have an open mind, but am almost always disappointed, or, worse, bored. I went to see Inside Llewellyn Davis, the latest Cohen Brothers, last week, and it was immaculate: really well done, faultless, but to me……nothing. I kind of enjoyed it, but was not TOUCHED. As for American Hustle, I actively HATED it – it just seemed so phony to me, so false. Ugh. The only one I can think of that got high ratings and which I adored was Black Swan, but that was a special case. I tend to agree with Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, as she favours the visual and the atmospheric over the thespian and the storyline like me – she is in the cinema for CINEMA, like me, she wants the beauty.

      There was a film that I saw at the video shop a few weeks ago, and checking online reviews, which I really think I should stop doing, it got about a 10% approval rating or something. I said to Duncan, it got 10%, it might be good, and it actually was: ‘Generation UM’ starring Keanu Reeves. Where many people would say it was ‘pretentious’, to me it captured what it was trying to capture and was strangely enjoyable. Experimental. Odd.

      The world is stupid. Thank god for Steven Soderbergh.

  6. tonkabeany

    Completely wonderful! Blacknarcissus (this splendid blog, not the perfume) is my haven and retreat, and posts like this one (and so many others) are the reason why. Really looking forward to trying Narcisse Bleu, I love Grey Flannel and Hiris is beautiful, although it never completely captivated me. I might possibly find the complete lack of sweetness a bit challenging, I don’t know, but I definitely have days when I need what you describe.
    I watched Solaris on your recommendation many years ago, after I had spoken to you about the infuriating sense of being too influenced and defined by other people. I remember going over and over the thoughts in my head, whilst walking round a park in Glasgow, wondering what my thoughts would be if I had no sense that I would ever say them aloud to someone else. Solaris haunted me for a long time. It was very slow, and I even drifted in and out of sleep, but a nebulous, disturbing spirit of the film was running through my veins for a long time afterwards. I really must watch the original, but these days especially I must make sure I am very well rested first.

    • What you say about thoughts is very interesting, and probably one of the reasons that I write The Black Narcissus. Even if I died tomorrow, all this would remain on the internet ether for a very long time; my thoughts, and the conversations with people on here, which I enjoy immensely, would exist as disembodied moments of love and connection, and immersion in something unconnected to the filthy, commercial shit of the categorizing, capitalist world. This space is FREE, and no one can touch it but me.

      The older I get, the less I can tolerate strictures of any kind. I hate the unnatural parameters of nationality, gender, age, race: the more people try to box each other in, the more it just makes me want to scream. Of course, this all sounds a bit extreme, but it is precisely why I CANNOT watch TV because of advertising, particularly in Japan, where women are SO bloody hemmed in by the stereotypes of how they are supposed to be, as are men, and just seeing it, even for a few seconds, makes me feel as if I were going to explode. To me, these cliched views of people are so damn wrong and limiting, and they make me want to die.

      Of course, Solaris is way more subtle than anything that I am ranting ridiculously about here: it isn’t to do with those kinds of restrictions, but with the inherent inability of humans to fully understand each other. When I was at university and studying French existentialism I was almost driven to madness by the idea that we cannot know another person (which is true in many ways), and yet experience, common sense, and intuition all began to tell me that this was not entirely true (and you and I have, of course, literally fused on that one occasion, an experience that remains strangely inexplicable). We ARE connected, and the difference no longer frightens me (though sometimes, when Duncan and I are lying in bed drifting off to sleep I feel shut out: who knows what he is thinking about?)

      I think Solaris is so brilliant because it makes this idea concrete in the form of Rheya. The fact that she is the literal physical representation of his limited view of her is what makes the film so disturbing (and it IS disturbing: it stayed with me for a very long time afterwards, and is one of those films, because of the soundtrack especially, that I have to return to – one of those films that has become a part of me). I need it. It gives me solace. The critics can go fuck themselves, because they are all boring cretins with overly conservative agendas. For me, Soderbergh’s Solaris is pure visual poetry, yet successfully combined with a Hollywood framework. I wish I hadn’t lent out my DVD as I really feel like watching it now – half my collection is always out to people and I never get most of them back…..

      As for the Tarkovsky, well I am sure that you would react in a similar fashion to the way that D and I did……i.e, we both just found it almost unbearably bleak and piercing and just went to bed without saying anything (“it will be alright in the morning” type thing). And it was true: the next day, as with all the finest cinematic art, I felt purified and refreshed, as I did after watching Melancholia, even though it had sent me into a rage and miserable fury in the cinema, as Junko reeled weeping into the streets of Ginza and we tried to get a hold of ourselves. The next day, both of us woke up in the best possible moods ever. It ripped out the fluff and the moss and the mould and was real catharsis. Tarkovsky is one of those filmmakers that are deadly serious, purist, going right to the marrow of human existence, touching on family, love, the soul, eternity, death.

      It killed me.

  7. carole macleod

    It’s early on the summer solstice day here in NS-and you have blown my mind. And i will have hours of daylight to think about this. I want to read, and reread, and think, and then try to find words to express all the thoughts swirling in my head. I saw the original Solstice last weekend-still not over it. And now i want to see the George Clooney version. I will respond more later, but in the meantime-thank you.

  8. Dearest Ginza
    Yes Solaris.
    Two entirely different films.
    I like the Soderbergh, for all its just comprehensible enough incomprehensibility. Its visual allusions to Kubrick. Its ability to take its time and hold its breath just long enough to make moments painful, ironic, poignant, reflective. Something Hollywood seems allergic too, or too scared to do these days. McElhone is haunting, graceful, enigmatic. Things leading ladies were once allowed to be but practically no more.
    But Andrei Tarkovksy’s work occupies another realm. It achieves an elusive greatness that is both abstract and concrete, expressive and narrative. A sublime paradox that Vigo and Bunuel, Pasolini and Haneke are also able to pull off.
    Tarkovsky’s Solaris reverberates with a quite terror that you crystalise beautifully in the notion on ‘conferred’ identity. A signature perfume, a troubled past, a mental state, a set of beliefs. All things not in one’s own control but in the ‘gift’ of another, an amorphous, authoritarian, omnipotent other. It is inseparable from the tyranny of Soviet Rule, the icicle factory in which the film was conceived.
    Sheer and brilliant, no wonder Bergman thought him the greatest director that had ever lived. His Solaris is the dog that doesn’t bark in the barren nights of oh-so-many futile lists of greatest flicks.
    The comparison with Narcisse Bleu is not fanciful. I adored it from the moment I tried it (though will admit it is much more the house style here) and bought it almost instantly.
    It’s as near as mainstream perfumery has gotten to anti-perfumery on some sense. An abstract object smell that occupies a space and demands to be appreciated for a cool lined modern beauty not at all pretty or alluring.
    Perhaps one to wear when you next dare take the original Solaris out of its box.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  9. katherinec

    I have watched lots of Tarkovsky films and he is like no other. And I was thinking that I had begun watching the original Solaris but then realised I had confused it with beginning to watch 2001 A Space Odyssey, which was too much for me and immediately made me want to come back to earth, but I wonder why I have never watched Solaris… And now want to watch the Soderburgh version. But the thing is that I’ve had such a terrible month or so after having split up with my boyfriend, and have been heartbroken and lost, and the idea of this storyline has made me cry. But I do love how you discuss films here. And my experience is also at least in part contrary to the critics’ consensus. I don’t know if this has always been the case but it feels more and more, and can feel deadening to culture (I mean come on! I don’t feel it can just come down to personal taste, who are these people?!) but in fact that’s how it’s always been, and discussing it somewhere like this gets blood pumping through its veins again – it is still the most exciting medium to me. I didn’t always agree with him but I was always appreciative of Roger Ebert, his was always his own guttural response. I think being able to dip in and out of this history of cinema, of things looking different in hindsight (to the critics and everyone) like an ever-changing reality, is just so wonderful. There are so many fascinating thoughts here around these two films, too much for me to contemplate right now but which I have loved reading!

    • I read Roger Ebert as well. He was totally honest, and appreciative of things, even if our tastes were sometimes rather different. On the whole, though, if he likes a film, it is possible that I will. There are other critics who dislikes I make it a rule to go and watch, and then others, like the aforementioned Manohla Dargis, whose recommendations I follow rather too slavishly.

      But I agree. It is nice to delve back into things that are way beyond what is ‘current’ and ‘relevant’ and all that crap and just enter and feel them for what they are. For many a Tarkovsky lover, the Soderbergh is just unbearable Hollywood crap. Better to see that one before the Tarkovsky I think, if you are the art house ‘purist’ type. I have an extremely strong appetite for the arty, but am pretty commercial as well, I would say. I mean if I had to choose between my copy of Solaris and Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, which I consider a sublime masterpiece in its sordid colour and skillful rendering, I can’t say that I would necessarily plump every time for Russian misery.

      If you are in heartbreak mode (and I am sorry to hear it, I was wondering where you had disappeared to), who knows whether it is better to immerse oneself in the melancholic or try to be jovial. I personally am the type who does things to match his mood rather than change it, as the opposite mood is just usually too jarring to me. When miserable I watch the miserable or the violent, when happy anything beautiful and rich and lurid will do of any emotional emotional register. I just can’t bear the sense of ‘middle-of-the-roadness’, and Oscar Worthiness, which makes me feel a stodged-up fury. The films of Sam Mendes, for example…..ugh! Or the King’s Speech. I know many people, and many readers here, will have loved it, but it was my idea of cinematic hell. Like Paint It By Numbers for people who need stories of ‘overcoming difficulties’ and ‘strength in adversity’ and all that, and all, naturally, with the rousing orchestra and the ‘happy’ ending. I just can’t do films like that they make me FURIOUS.

  10. Yes Showgirls! I find Tarkovsky is not usually the mood I’m in though once watched they resonate and really are the most amazing experiences, ones that I love to know exist but I will put off exploring in more detail, and yet they’re such powerful visual masterpieces I don’t know if I watched them whilst sleeping or with wide awake attention to detail. At the moment I’m open to anything, though it’s been a strange month of upheaval and for some of that time I really only had a book to read in between seeing friends and family, when I went to the cinema I opted for Disney’s Maleficent one day and a talk about a century of Chinese history and cinema the next (it was very dry but got to keep busy!). Now I have the loan of a laptop I am sure to immerse myself in films and culture again. I have actually just moved in with a Russian girl who is writing her phd on silent cinema and we are sub-renting a Russian painter’s flat, which is full of paintings and strange objects (including some Russian icon paintings), and we are sure to have some wonderful film nights. I will look up Manohla Dargis. Nowadays I have no idea if I’m going to get something out of a film or not, but I’m usually pretty confident the oscar-worthy stuff is gonna be a waste of my time. Interestingly I was so sure I was going to seethingly LOATHE American Hustle in that the thought of it made me quite angry, as I hated The Fighter so much and as you say knew it was going to be prescribed in the most irritating way, but then, I actually didn’t mind it. Part of me sometimes feels I could move into middle of the road territory in some sort of sympathy, but I guess I don’t quite mean it in that what is middle of the road shifts over or something. Anyway I think I must be rambling now.

  11. Lilybelle

    I’m about to watch Solaris. I borrowed the dvd from the library yesterday.

  12. Lilybelle

    I was asleep for a long time! I loved it (Soderbergh’s) even though I’m not a Clooney fan. McElhone was wonderful. It did feel like watching 2001 A Space Odyssey. And a hint of Blade Runner. I understand the happy reunion at the end was a Hollywood add on (I hate that), so now I’ll have to watch the Russian version, and maybe read the book.

    • Glad you enjoyed it (is the Soderbergh not hypnotic?) I personally quite like the ambiguity of the add-on, actually. It made the whole thing dream-like, and that suited me nicely.

  13. Alice

    I’m glad you said ‘tannic’ – I got a creosote note, which I really like, in fact for something which initially seems simply floral/woody there is quite an urban feel, whiffs of building site, sawn timber and plaster dust. Loved your review!

  14. I did not see this film but it sounds like something I would like. I was intrigued by Black Swan as well. Your review was really excellent–you are such an excellent writer. On another note, if I were only able to use one perfume for the rest of my life, it would be Hermes Hiris. I bought it when it first came out years ago, and although I now have a very extensive perfume collection, it is still Hiris I go to when I don’t know what to wear or if I am having a very contemplative morning or evening. It is always my go-to scent despite the other couple of hundred that I own.

    • Well I think that it is definitely one of those scents you can hide in – and that is what this piece was about, really. Most of the scents I wear are to project myself in some way, often quite aggressively. I wear Hiris when I need that calm, removed feeling. I also like the fact that it predated all the niche irises: at the time, no one was doing that kind of perfume and Hermes kind of went out on a limb. To be honest, I personally think that Jean Claude Ellena is overrated: of course he has made some very nice perfumes, but like Bernard Duchaufour et al, all the male superstar perfumers, many of their creations are overly ‘intellectualised’ for me, too thought out. I think female perfumers, like Olivia Giacobetti, often make more seamless, just beautifully smelling creations without all the conceptual bullshit and over fussy experimentation.

      As for Solaris, where Black Swan is all (masterful, rapturous) hysteria, this slow science fiction is all drawn out control and hypnosis, but as I wrote here, the ideas at the heart of it are mind-blowing. The tension between Clooney and Natasha McElhone is really good. It is an intelligent romance for once without all the tedious, overly self conscious sassiness you get from many American films. Plus, Viola Davis is fantastic in it as one of the astronauts on board. The whole thing is just very enveloping. Some wine, unwind, and an evening with this film is a poignantly luxuriant experience.

  15. Love all the comments and replies. Really adds to my appreciation of the original piece, which I inhaled.
    Speaking of movies: Okay, I just rented it, and HAVE to know: what did you think of The Grand Budapest Hotel? Somehow, I thought of you. I was caught up in the wild visuals and how “real” it was at the same time: how it had human verisimilitude despite occurring in a dreamed-up world. And there was l’Air de Panache. I thought Ralph nailed it. I’m thinking you could have loved it . . . or loathed it?

    • Could never quite face watching it as I am not really a fan of the director. I keep ALMOST renting it, but it looks a bit too ‘kooky’ and ‘wacky’ for me. Upon your recommendation, though, I shall have a go. I know a few people who really loved it.

      • That’s just why I never saw it in the theatres. Very same reason. And I kind of had my arms folded as it started, sure I’d dislike it. Wasn’t sure at first, couldn’t understand why the so-called “Grand” hotel looked so . . . what was it? What was so jarring? Why was this all wrong? And that was the start of the wild ride. Actually had to watch the beginning again to understand all the clues. Now, maybe you’ll find me completely dense, and I admit I do see films in kind of tunnel vision sometimes, fixating on some aspect while everything else goes over my head. Anyway, it’s okay if you think it is a crap movie, but still, you might want to rent it if nothing else was in the player .
        And I must rent Solaris. I read metacritic’s reviews. All over the place. I do love reading reviews, especially the ones I entirely disagree with. I always think it expands my wee brain a bit.

      • Wee – yeah right. But Metecritic is always to be mistrusted. Even if it is useful.

  16. Tilda Swinton makes a cameo appearance and she is splendid.

    • Again, not a fan. Particularly when she is in some barmy ‘guise’.

      • Oh s**t. Pretend I never mentioned her. Honestly, I don’t see films where she – or anyone – is doing barmy. There was an Italian film, oh, what was the name, straight up, which was un-barmy, and she acquitted herself well. She has potential. 😉

      • No she is a ‘great actress’, just not quite my cup of tea for some reason. I wrote a piece on the film you are talking about, I AM LOVE – that one was quite good if I remember correctly.

  17. That was the one. Quite good is how I remember it too, so there IS hope for us yet, N. I remember her clothes. Simple, Italian. She does wear things well.

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