Monthly Archives: March 2016

GUERLAIN PARURE (1975 )

 

 

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A prunish, stern enigma, Parure sings solitary in the vast Guerlain pantheon as the lone, patchouli chypre. Almost shrewish in her isolation – all saturnine, Mitsouko moss and spiced narcissus,  lilac, and crumbling,fusted roses;  cypress, styrax and bitter green clary sage wrapped sagely in leather – the deep, plum-rich, savoir faire of this full-bodied and very cultivated perfume is rapt, stately, and simultaneously held tight. While almost dark and gloomy, even foresty and witch-like when viewed from some angles (particularly for a Guerlain, usually the house of more simple and immediate sensualities), this curiously beautiful, but slightly passive-aggressive, perfume nevertheless has a great deal of elegance and detachment. There is a dignity here, a plushness. Parure, never quite ahead enough of her times and secretly lost in romantic daydreams of the past, holds back initially, as she conceitedly displays her conspicuously fine-bred taste that keeps you at a comfortable, amethyst-brooch-clasped distance; but then, once warmed through, lets fly those romantic notions – tender, firm, and gravely sensual – that you can tell have always been embedded at the centre of her being. While the reformulated eau de toilette I have in my collection somehow fails to completely make its ingredients gel in perfect fruition – it is not bad but a touch humourless and dank –  the miniature vintage 1ml parfum I once had (found tossed in a box at the Tokyo fleamarket) was a lilting, damascene elixir of deep set roses, patchouli and liquorous, woodland plum that concisely encapsulated the theme set by the perfume’s name – Parure : meaning jewel.

 

 

 

For me there was always something quite nineteenth-century about this creation:  all bustles, cloaks, and fine, thickly upholstered fabric. And perhaps this is not a coincidence. The perfume’s creator, Jean Paul Guerlain, was consciously revisiting, when making Parure, the classic Mitsouko template (created back in 1918 by his father, Jacques), substituting plum for peach, and a more difficult, guarded heart, but still created quite nostalgically with the same inimitable aura of Parisian refinement. Thus inspired by and created for his mother –  Madame Guerlain –  who would actually have lived through that era, his ‘new’ Guerlain chypre perfume, though clearly also influenced by other contemporary patchouli-centred creations of the period including Aromatics Elixir and Givenchy III, nevertheless seems to share none of their interests or 1970’s preoccupations. Instead, Parure remains forever an outsider and from another time: the handsome but diffident, velvet-clad duchess, eyes fixed on the past, her perfume  – and she would never even consider wearing anything else, not even for a moment  – a very real, and quite convincing, Portrait Of A Lady.

 

 

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MARY MAGDALENE IN ECSTACY & THE PERFUMES OF DR VRANJES

 

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I have just been ravished by Caravaggio.

 

The exhibition at the Tokyo Museum Of Western Art – Caravaggio and his friends, rivals, and enemies – featured some of the baroque painter’s most iconic images, including his Bacchus and Medusa as well as the Narcissus, a murky, shadow-filled painting you could easily get lost in, caught between reality and reflection.

 

But it was the above painting, Mary Magdalene In Ecstacy, that most transfixed me. A world premiere – it was only recently discovered – this strange,  powerfully ambiguous painting ( which the  image above does no justice to: in fact shown this picture by Duncan on the train up here it made almost no impression on me ) in actual reality had me rooted to the spot: mesmerized. I could have stood before her, drinking her in, all day.

 

Is this religious ecstacy? Is it sexual ecstacy? Is she near death? The expression in her eyes and on her lips in the presence of the real painting is beyond description, palpable in the hushed melee of people gathering round it, like me, in stunned contemplation. The life force present in the painting, the force of its energy, were overwhelming. It is the best painting I have ever seen.

 

 

This exhibition also took me back to my time in Rome, when I would wander aimlessly around the eternal city, stopping in a church or two to admire the Caravaggio triptychs – so perfect in their rightful context – as they also were at an exhibition of his I went to there ( almost a quarter of a century ago, now) where the lights would be turned off at intervals and his miraculous chiaroscuro effects shown to their best advantage. His world of the high and the low; of saints and sinners; of priests and angels and murderers and street prostitutes, captured exquisitely, and perpetually, in the passionate stroke of a brush.

 

 

 

 

 

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We emerged from the exhibition, had a cake and coffee in the cafe overlooking the garden as the feelings from that painting almost resonated me to tears ( I love the ABSORPTION of such an exhibition; the transference of centuries; to think that Mary Magdalene has been in that frightening, unearthly, painfully euphoric state for four centuries already and hopefully will be for all eternity; it takes you out of yourself for a time, and lets other souls, from other times, fill you up for a moment instead. Purification. A catharsis) but outside, on sale along with the usual memorabilia, along with an array of all things Italian – wine, olive oil, artisanal crafts and objets d’art ( this exhibition was held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and Japan ( and the Japanese are total Italophiles : I usually go to the packed out Italian film festival in Ginza every year )), was a selection of perfumes ( really room fragrances, though most of them are so good you could wear them as perfumes ) by Dr Vranjes di Firenze, a Florentine purveyor of fine fragrance who has a huge range of perfumes of every olfactory style, from airy and refreshing ( I have also enjoyed the atypically natural smelling Acqua and Aria ), hale and herbaceous – I once had a bottle of Timo Lavanda – a thyme scent I really enjoyed. – through oriental ( the delicious Mandarino Vaniglia ) and the subtly sense- inviting wild fig perfume Fico Selvatico, pictured above .

 

 

Only Rosso Nobile, though, the quintessential Dr Vranjes perfume and the most popular, seemed to have a vague olfactory connection to the paintings of Michelangelo Caravaggio: like his flushed, sensual Bacchus slyly holding his glass of vino rosso, this scent is rich, drenched in wine grapes, and like everything else at this exhibition, made me just yearn to jump on a plane back to Rome.

 

 

 

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SOME BRIEF NOTES ON AMBER: : : AMBRE SULTAN by SERGE LUTENS (1993) + AMBRE PRECIEUX by MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER (1988) + AMBRE RUSSE by PARFUMS D’EMPIRE (2003) + L’EAU D’AMBRE by l’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1978) + AMBRE D’ORIENT by ARMANI PRIVE (2010) + BOIS D’ARMENIE by GUERLAIN (2006) + THE PERFUMER’S STORY AMBER MOLECULE by AZZI (2015)

 

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Looking through my archives I realize that I have virtually nothing written on amber. This is strange, since theoretically, as a lover or orientals and heavy, decadent perfumes such as Bal A Versailles, there should be more. In reality, though I love an ambered finish to a scent, be it Parfum d’Hermes, Guerlain’s Heritage EDP, or the spectacular drydown of Metalys/Metallica (exactly my kind of subtle, ambered texture once the carnations have vanished);  L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L’Eau Du Navigateur – all diaphanous incense, coffee and sand-kissed amber fade-down , or the strange cassis-ambered conclusion of Caron’s under appreciated Montaigne,  an unalloyed, pure, heaving amber often suffocates me, as though I were being dragged down, silk-gagged, in a heavy, camel- hair coat (with a dense, cashmere lining), on a humid and sweltering August afternoon.

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong. I see an amber, I smell it. Such perfumes luxuriate in their sweet thickness and westerner-alluring orientalism. They glow with deep smell and the prospect of aggressive blankets of sillage that sink on air and stay richly in the brain. I gravitate towards these perfumes, in many ways, and sometimes briefly consider buying them, but virtually never then end up reaching for my wallet. Ultimately it can often seem to me as if the thickest and richest ambers own and then work you, as though you had been tantalized by, but were then drowning in, a giant, bristling vat of overcooked, throat-stopping toffee.

 

 

 

The prototype of the classical amber scent for me is probably Jean Claude Ellena’s L’Eau d’Ambre  by L’Artisan Parfumeur, ground zero of the pure amber perfume, just labdanum, patchouli, some rose, and probably some vanilla, but it doesn’t matter because all you get is that caramellized, sweet insistent ambered smell that is so French (the popular Reminiscence Paris Ambre also smells quite similar). In a sense this, and its more robust younger sibling, Ambre Extrême, are the sina qua non of classical ambers, clinging like velvet –  autumnal, even melancholic –  but even though I can imagine the odd spritz here or there on a cold winter’s day there is something, still, at the heart of this formula,  that slightly repels me. As I wrote in my review of  Parfumerie Generale’s Ombre Fauve (an unclean, animalic amber), there is still that dirty, unmade bed aspect of encroaching mental illness in L’Eau de l’Ambre  – of unwashed hair, of a certain musked obsessiveness – that makes me yearn for open windows.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ambre Sultan: When the first Serge Lutens perfumes came out at the beginning of the 1990’s they were iconic. Unprecedented.  Fiercely strong, crafted with integrity and self-excitement, these perfumes seemed to open up new possibilities in what fragrance could be (and we didn’t even have the word ‘niche’ to categorize the perfumes then – they were just new). And although Ambre Sultan perturbed me at the time with its sheer potency  and by these exotic and unfamiliar accords I had never before experienced (not only the impressively voluptuous amber, vanilla and resins themselves but also the peculiar bay leaf, myrtle, and oregano spice market swirl of the top notes, most odd), I enjoyed wearing the samples and could dream of a more exciting perfumed future. It lingered, it professed, it was Ambre Sultan, now an oriental legend. Fast forward a decade or so, though, and the bottle I then got as a Christmas present that year was a pale shadow of its former self (as are most of the Serge Lutens now in my opinion). It was alright, and it still had the evocative, dusty herbs at the spice souk aspect that made it so distinctive, but the base was no way near as impressive, and now more generically wan and vanillic. I used up my bottle, of course, and enjoyed it mixed with other things when the occasion was right, but in truth it was never a perfect match for me anyway, and I certainly wouldn’t invest in another.

 

 

 

 

While I have long enjoyed wearing Calvin Klein’s Obsession (another amber perfume and my first ever perfume love) as well as Cartier Must Parfum – amber, vanilla, florals, and an unusual top note of green galbanum- together with L’Othantique’s ghostly, powdery Fleurs D’Ambre, other ambers I have tried on occasion in my rich, ludicrously perfumed life include Ambre Fetiche by Annick Goutal (ok, but too angled, rasping and smoky for me personally), and Ambre Precieux by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, which I consider perfect – a very beautifully austere, deep and shadowy ambered perfume that has a gentlemantly dignity about it that I am not quite sure I can carry off convincingly but which I can imagine falling in love with on another person.  If I were wearing Ambre Precieux myself I think I might keep making too many jokes in whoever’s presence I happened to be just to introduce a light touch of offsetting levity. Or else I might just get depressed. It is beautiful, but for an amber, this perfume has a surprisingly high level of gravitas.

 

 

 

In contrast, I have no time really for the fancy boutique hotel lobby ‘luxurious’ brand ambers such as Tom Ford Amber Absolute (solid and good but overwhelming;  the recent Rive D’Ambre  precisely the opposite, making so little impression on my consciousness that I couldn’t recall it at all, just a few minutes of deeply inhaling it), or the ritzy metallic slick of a perfume like Dior’s overly style-prescribed Ambre Nuit – the perfect example of an overloaded niche level perfume that is just too much bother and contains little beauty, in my view, although I have lingered several times in the past over Parfums D’Empire’s sturdy and convincing Ambre Russe, partly because I do have an attraction to all things Russian, but mostly because I like the no nonsense style of perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato who usually creates quite unpretentious but full, bodied, upliftingly rich perfumes that quite simply please the senses. While I had considered buying this gilded, glinting perfume for its punchy, masculine blast of ambered richness, I was always slightly troubled by a certain saltiness, the champagne and vodka notes in the top notes of the perfume that remind me, now, of the horrifying Womanity by Thierry Mugler, possibly not only the worst perfume I have ever smelled in my life, but also the worst olfactory experience  (I once had the misfortune to be on a plane on my way from Japan back to England near a woman who had just drenched herself in this fig, metal, vodka, and caviar monstrosity at Duty Free, while then quite openly  proceeding to change her baby’s diapers – who seemed to have come down with a case of gastro enteritis  -just a little way down the aisle from where I was sitting (yes, actually in her seat). I can tell you quite bluntly this was an olfactory combination that I never want to re-experience: I was shouting and becoming unruly, thrashing about in my seat  -we were in ‘fasten your seatbelt mode’ at the time – in nasal and mental pain as the combined miasma of smells assailed me, deeply embarrassing Duncan who couldn’t believe my crazed reaction and was trying desperately to shut me up). In reality there are no similarities between Ambre Russe  – an amber perfume I respect –  and the chemical, piscine foulness of the Mugler – but somehow in my smell brain some notes have now become inextricably interlinked after this scent trauma, so I suppose that does mean dosvidaniya.

 

 

 

 

 

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To expand on the ambers in this impulsively written piece I have just been looking through my perfumed drawers of samples looking for Mona Di Orio’s Ambre, which I remember being typically different and rebellious (she always revised the templates of any given perfume category): light, and emotionally relevant, but I can’t find it  – please remind me of its character if you do know this one. Instead, I came across a vial of Guerlain’s Bois D’Armenie  which I consider to be an amber – balsamic, resinous, quite dirty yet dark and soft and  mysterious, not as sharp as Tonka Imperiale from the same Les Matieres collection ( also a rich and glinting amber I once had a bottle of), as well as Armani Prive’s Ambre d’Orient, a straight-down-the-line rich, middle Eastern amber a la Ambre Sultan but less eccentric, more…..  Armani. Effective though – it delivers the goods, stays beautifully on the skin,  and I can imagine wearing it one day in combination with something else if the right mood  – extrovert, sociable, big-hearted, I will envelop you-  suddenly catches me.

 

 

 

Speaking of which, I have, actually, been wearing, rather than just pontificating on, an amber these last couple of weeks, the most recent release of all the perfumes here. While you wouldn’t catch me dead in a chemically purified ‘amber’ of the Prada variety, this new scent – Amber Molecule, by a perfumer I had never heard of before until I received a sample bottle in the post-  is smooth and ambered but full of light. A dose of ‘vanilla musk’ and ‘French powder’ combine with floral tones (tuberose absolute and orris) and lift the ambered notes up top, while as the perfume settles, it has the familiarly oriental, ambered facets that amber lovers love while managing to hover just above the curve of the skin without asphyxiating it. The problem I think for me with heavily concentrated classic ambers is the fact of constant awareness. Although I like to be conscious of the scent I am projecting – because perfume is ultimately more about personal pleasure than anything else – at the same time I like for that knowing to sometimes fade into oblivion and then for the sentience of the perfume to unexpectedly resurface at differing points during the day  – an mmmmmm I am loving myself in this, I wonder if anyone else is: for the scent to then disappear, intermittently, as I think about other things happening within and without me as I get on with whatever I am doing. With the relentless, clobbering caramel of an overly persistent amber you don’t get this – for me it starts to feel like something of a liability. An intrusion. And while Amber Molecule might not hit all my buttons completely  (perhaps it is a little bit sweet ; shallow?) it nevertheless, in a most pleasant manner, at least allows the light-headed, ambery goodness working its magic on your skin and encircling you – soft, uninhibited, approachable, sensual – to properly breathe.

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rich people in tokyo use comme des garcons as toilet spray

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March 21, 2016 · 3:30 pm

THREE SHOUTS OF: : : : : JOY by JEAN PATOU (1930) + ODE by GUERLAIN (1955) + SNOB by LE GALION ( 1952)

 

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THREE SHOUTS OF: : : : : JOY by JEAN PATOU (1930) + ODE by GUERLAIN (1955) + SNOB by LE GALION ( 1952)

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VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS

 

 

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On me:   Vintage Balmain Jolie Madame (parfum and eau de toilette): Violets, artemisia, galbanum, and leather.

 

 

On him: Guerlain Lavande Velours: Violets,  violets, lavender and iris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RICKI AND THE FLASH : : BERGAMOTE SOLEIL by ATELIER COLOGNE (2016)

 

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I love citrus. In fact, if I were a fruit, I would probably be a lemon (before Facebook inexplicably shut down my account on the day of my birthday last year, my FB alter ego, to stop my students from looking me up, was Lemon Peel). While I love all vegetables and fruit without exception, lemons, oranges and grapefruit are at the top of the pile for me somehow, so rich in truth clarity and sharpness: I always love how the citric acidity tears through your system and the sheer life force in those oil pores present in the fruit’s skin burst open from their untouched membranes and releases pure, unadulterated essence. Where most essential oils have to be dragged unwillingly from their giver – boiled, distilled, or drowned in hexane – the citrus oils are all libidinous, at the height of their potencies and waiting to burst forth: you just have to give them a squeeze.

 

Despite all of this and my large consumption of citrus fruit – particularly all the delectably tart, Japanese varieties such as the iyokan, whose thick, oiled skin is a veritable perfumed bonanza of citric power so strong you can fill an entire room with it when you open one- rarely am I satisfied in fact with a citrus perfume. It’s like with tea and coffee. I am ultimately more of a coffee drinker – I drink tons of it – but am not that fussy about where it comes from, from truck stop to fast food to gourmet (though it must always be real coffee, never instant, which somehow feels like poison). But I can drink it in cups, mugs, paper cups, anything, in the same way that I am fairly easy perfume-wise when it comes to anything ambery, coconutty, almondy – even if it is not one hundred per cent perfect I will probably wear it at least once or twice as I basically like that kind of smell. With tea, though, I am extremely selective. Phobic, almost. Probably traumatized by too many bad cases of ‘builder’s tea’ in the UK – luke-warm, malty, over-milked ‘English Breakfast’ muck served in stained mugs –  even a hint of those foul gustatory memories makes me heave and as a result, like some high falutin duchess, I will only drink ‘English’ tea out of bone china cups and done my way: piping hot, either Earl Grey, or Darjeeling, or if it’s Ceylon or Assam, with the perfect addition of cardamon and nutmeg (delicious, actually, the way we drink it every morning). The cheery English clarion call ‘You want a cuppa tea?’ actually fills me with dread.

 

From an olfactory point of view it is the same with citrus perfumes. I am unbearably fussy. They never get it right. They are either too musky  – I don’t like the classical citrus template in the familiar mode of 411 or Guerlain Eau Du Coq or Eau De Cologne Imperiale at all (I certainly don’t need any rosemary or neroli in it, nor any powder or Tonkin musc), too herbal  – Eau De Guerlain, Eau d’hadrian -or else they contain too many harsh, synthetic modern wood notes either (almost impossible, now, to evade). Bergamot is one of the, if not the most exquisite essential oil(s) existing in our fragrant universe,  and it is an oil I love both in perfumery – think of how it floats haughtily and beautifully above in Shalimar parfum –  and as an essential oil for its healing properties – if you ever get a cold sore or a sore throat, this oil is simply the best (my body and bergamot are naturally in sync). Plus, unlike the revolting, gasoline-and-dill-pickle smell of tea tree oil, which is effective but whose scent I can’t abide, bergamot smells beautiful, and refreshing, into the bargain. Rarely, however, is it done justice in a competently rendered, bergamot namesake perfume.

 

New York based Atelier Cologne has really made a name for itself with its citrus perfumes over the past few years, and Bergamote Soleil is the latest addition to the ever expanding line. While I was unimpressed with the recent Cedrat Enivrant (too ninetiesy sport spritz), Pomelo Paradis (too synthetic boiled sweet – too ‘yellow’), Grand Neroli (initial impression: fantabulously citric symphonia – later, boring) and Orange Sanguine (nearly there! adorable beginning, really like it, not so fussed about the musk note later that reminds me of Etat Libre d’Orange’s horrifying Secretions Magnifiques), Bergamote Soleil has perhaps the most deliriously enjoyable beginning section of any Atelier Cologne citrus perfume so far – quite immediate and appealing  (though I am yet to sample Mandarine Glaciale, which also sounds quite nice: in a review I wrote last year or so, if you remember I was also going crazy about Tom Ford’s Mandarino d’Amalfi though even that, ultimately, failed my stringent and unforgiving skin tests as it faded to its unenlivening, standardised baseline).

 

Bergamote Soleil  almost gets there for me, in its charming and positively smile inducing head notes. Yum, we are talking a fresh, citric green (cardamom and jasmine) revivifying spray that would be positively delightful on a sun-filled morning in late July. Although it doesn’t smell especially like bergamot as such – more like lime and lemon and other things – The Different Company’s Bergamote is a more classically bergamot citrus cologne, for example, as is Ermenegilda Zegna’s fresh, but rather po-faced, zipped up Italian Bergamot –  this zinging, cheerful perfume has that uplifting, citrus bouquet fantasia aspect I have always really enjoyed in such pleasing perfumes as Caron Eau Fraiche (probably the closest I have ever come to finding a perfect combination of mandarin, orange, grapefruit, lemon, bergamot and  lime – like a multi-faceted floral bouquet, its ultimate identity becomes something new as the citrus essences fuse) or even reminding me slightly of the lime-focalized beauty of the modest, but beautifully crisp, Sport De Paco Rabanne, one of the best citrus blends for men ever created. Bergamote De Soleil has that similar carefree, summer sensation, when you just splash on your citrus cologne and forget all your worries because the sunshine is literally blasting them back into the shadows: it is this that I love about summertime – never do I feel more alive, yet drowsy and happily in the moment, unlike in Autumn, when the doubt and the melancholy begin to creep back in, and life is revealed again in all its ultimate sadness.

 

“They drove all night long taking turns… The minivan was the same one they had when they first met. He spotted it instantly, driving along the line of bergamot trees leading up to the villa. The table was already set for lunch. He wasn’t surprised to see them. It was as if they had always been together. This moment was a blessing and a reminder of so many treasured years.”

 

This quotation is written on the back of the bottle of Bergamote Soleil and I like this idea: a romantic vignette, a small story, that you can reflect upon as you pick up your bottle of scent – the memories of summers past, and treasured places (and what a glorious idea, an avenue of bergamot trees – this imaginary picnic must have taken place in Lombardy or Calabria) and spray.

 

It was also a sweet, nostalgic romanticism that suited, perfectly, the film I was watching as I analyzed this perfume last night – Ricki And The Flash, the latest work by Jonathan Demme (most famously the director of the Talking Heads’ live concert film Stop Making Sense and the horrifying serial killer classic Silence Of The Lambs, but more recently of more heartfelt, humanist dramas such as Rachel At The Wedding, which, with its in depth and convincing analysis of friction filled family dynamics I rather enjoyed). Centred on characters being plunged back (comically) into their past and starring a hugely enjoyable Meryl Streep, both the perfume and the film were ideal ways for me to relax, expand my soul, and fully properly enjoy the first day of my spring holidays.

 

 

The day before, Monday, the last day of term, was exhausting. One of those days that you somehow have to just get through. It was freezing cold, pelting it down with rain and sleet, and I had to attend graduation parties at three different schools 50 km or more away from each other;  the rainwater seeping into my shoes and socks soggily as I traipsed my way back between three different cities, drenched and cold and back and forth congratulating students and smiling benevolently (but genuinely – some of them did very well this year and I became quite close to a few of them), but at the final school, the main headquarters, I was then required to perform – me in front of a hundred Japanese people – the usual scenario – as I did my well practiced slow, ballad version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (effective) and a non-rehearsed (not even once) with-the-head-of-English-on-lead guitar atrocious performance of David Bowie’s Star Man (mortifying). I felt like such a fool, and I was so glad to get home to bed afterwards, much later that night when it was finally all over, as the rain continued to pour down, and I dropped like a shivering dead weight onto my waiting bedroom pillow.

 

 

Yesterday morning when  I woke up though it was glorious. Beautiful, sunny weather, clear skies, much warmer. The Japanese spring, rather like this post, is all over the place – even more so these last few years – and there is, I’m sure, some ancient, cliched idiom or other about how this constantly changing weather mirrors a ‘woman’s mood’ or something typically derogatory, but it really is, at the moment,  vastly changeable and unpredictable. The previous Monday the temperature had gone up into the seventies – as hot as an English August in July – and then the next day plunged back into winter. The magnolia and plum trees are all out but their flowers are getting blown away or touched by the cold;  the much heralded cherry blossom will soon be on its way, though, already budding, and you can feel the country’s growing excitement on its behalf (which will never wane: the Japanese love love love their sakura to the death).

 

 

Yurakucho, though still in the very centre of Tokyo, has a fair share of flowering trees itself and this was where I spent the afternoon and evening yesterday – a perfect place for entertainment, and an area that we often enjoy going up to to eat (god the food you can eat in Japan is good, particularly Chinese, exquisite), go to one of the bars along the rail tracks, or to see a film in the number of cinemas that are dotted around the district. Near Ginza and Hibiya, the whole area is a total pleasure centre, basically , both aesthetically pleasing, futuristic and traditionally Japanese, and packed with places to enthusiastically spend your hard earned money in. Hankyu department store is the probably the next best place for perfume after Isetan, Shinjuku and Beauty And Youth in Shibuya, so it’s always a nifty place to just pop into for a spray before you go on to your next destination – in this case, as is often the way with me, the cinema. Although I couldn’t find any films that I was desperate to see when I read through the Japan Times earlier in the morning, there were still three potential films I was partly interested in: The Martian, The Lobster, or Ricki And The Flash.

 

 

With the wonderfully sunny weather, though, and all the flowers coming out on the trees, my mood was really  up and after the coldness I had felt, both literally and emotionally, the day before, plodding about soddenly in my Mr Chapman teacher guise wishing the day would end,  I knew, instinctively,  I needed warmth. Ridley Scott’s The Martian is probably solid entertainment but I wasn’t in the mood for ‘effects’; The Lobster is some grim, Greek dystopian nightmare about failed human relationships that I just couldn’t face at that particular moment, and so with some scented Soleil spritzed quite happily on the back of my hand,  I went, instead, to the Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho film to watch something bright and sunny.

 

A family drama centered around a ‘failed, ageing rock singer’ (though I would say she was more just a woman with integrity who just refuses to compromise her dream even if it means abandoning her family), Rick And The Flash chronicles the family drama of a character named Ricki (Meryl Streep), a penniless singer who sings with her backing band The Flash in rock bars in downtown L.A with her boyfriend the lead guitarist (played by real life rock musician Rick Springfield), and who is called back to her family in New York State when her daughter attempts to kill herself following the break up of her marriage. A typical, and I suppose, predictable, ‘fish out of water’ type of scenario ensues in the comic screen play by Diablo Cody as the ‘alternative’ Ricki (all leather trousers, heavy make up and wild hairdos) fights with the more upright, acrimonious, and uptight, well to do and resentful members of her former family, held together by her rather prim ex-husband (Kevin Kline) and second wife back in his gated, suburban mansion in Indianapolis.

 

 

As the critic for the New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote in his review of the film, the entire confection is more like Easy Listening than Rock N’ Roll, and  it is true that  the threads of the story were perhaps too easily tied up at the end in standard, feel good fashion and that some of the peripheral characters were rather fuzzily drawn,  but who cares:  I thought Meryl was fantastic – one of her more believable castings I would say, funny, sexy and unselfconscious; and yes, the liberal, humanistic, everyone-of-all-races-and-sexual-persuasions-and-social-groups dancing together at the smile and cry ending  may have been a little idealistic and fantastical, but in these dangerously fascistic and highly divisive times (tell me that Donald Trump isn’t going to be the next president), who is complaining. For one night, at least, I was happy to try and believe that such unity between people is possible, that ‘love can conquer all’, etc etc, and I sat there at the front of the cinema completely in my element, alternately tearing up, laughing out loud, and beaming ear to ear. I loved it.

 

 

I have to say, though, that the perfume, still there on the back of my hand in tandem at this point,  wasn’t working quite as well. There are times when a rubbish film will just fade into the background as a delicious perfume takes over the concentration instead. But much as the sunny beginning of Bergamote Soleil had appealed to my sensibilities in the beginning, in its short, initial stages, as usual with Atelier Cologne fragrances, the ending, for me personally, was drab and uninspiring.  ‘Slovenian moss’ and ‘white amber’ or whatever it may, allegedly contain yes,but in reality this accord is just a lingering, and tedious smudge of nondescriptness. The Cedrat Envirant on my left hand had long become annoying in its standard masculine prescriptiveness, but at least it had some discernible character in its finale, unlike the Bergamote. It was not a bad smell exactly, just far too uninspiring to part with money for : the disappointing and yawning chasm between the gorgeously brightening initial notes and the boredom of the drydown would prove just too much of an ultimate irritation for me every single time I sprayed it on (do you think that I am being too picky, dear reader? Can one be too picky when it comes to putting something on your skin? It’s just that I consider the base accord in a perfume, ultimately, to be by far the most important. It’s the part that you have to live with. The part that remains on your clothes. Don’t you?)

 

The citruses I like best personally all work from top through to bottom: either the green orange- leaf dignity of Hermes Eau D’Orange Verte with its delicate, delicate base note of patchouli, or else the convincingly well made sunny brightness of Miller Harris’ Citron Citron and its sturdy but deftly done note of vetiver. Or else, ideally, I like it to just smell, somehow (using the perfumer’s magic box of tricks) continuously, continually of citrus (as that is the point, isn’t it, ultimately). Of the classical Guerlain colognes, only Eau De Fleurs De Cedrat really manages this feat  as it lays off the musk, just leaving a faint whisper of orange, while the more contemporary Cologne du 69 brilliantly manages to drift down from heavenly citrus notes to a feathered and meringue like vanillic eiderdown. I personally like a more attenuated, yet continual aura of lemon or orange or bergamot throughout the duration of a ‘citrus’ perfume on my skin if it is at all humanly possible, rather than just a drab and annoyingly persistent musk accord –  a briefly enjoyable dose of short-lived sunlight, lovely and fresh – that then ends, to your chagrin, most disappointingly, as it disappears completely away from view, like the sunshine draining away in September, in a  – for want of a better word – flash.

 

 

 

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