SHISEIDO ‘TENTATRICE’ ………………..THE ORCHID LADY (1997)

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In David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Donna goes to the house of The Orchid Man  –  a germ fearing, horticulturalist agoraphobe who never leaves his rooms, surrounded by his darlings, during an episode entitled ‘The Orchid Curse’. They kiss. Chaos ensues. Cigarettes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Orchids always strike me as being very extreme. The care they require, the obsession they evoke in those that tend to them (Clint Eastwood’s flawed but intriguing film ‘The Mule’ from 2018 was centred around a flower grower so possessed with the blooming of his orchids that he was willing to not only sacrifice his family, but also become a drug runner for the Mexican cartels); in Java, I witnessed firsthand the painstaking work required by the employees on the vanilla plantation to nurture the vines, spread out as over several hectares of forests while the orchid plants climbed quietly and stealthily up the trees but would bloom only one day of the year – that frantic time when the workers would be searching the entire premises looking for the ice cream coloured flower as it opened for the process of pollination;  a precious, beeless moment that, despite seeing every other step of the agricultural methods used to produce one hanging vanilla pod, I was unfortunately just a few days too early to witness firsthand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have noticed recently – having seen lots of documentaries set in various parts of the world, but especially in the U.S, that there is a  preponderance of  minimalism in many of the interiors (‘millennials favour experiences, not possessions‘), almost as if they themselves, the protagonists, form the decoration in the places that they live; the surroundings almost plain, utilitarian.   Space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a lot more like the Orchid Man. I love to be inside. Surrounded by things, living or otherwise. If I could grow them, I would have them trailing the balcony, strangling other plants. Breathing. I want tropical flowers, succulents, as many as possible. If I could, I would make the inside of my house like a jungle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In ‘Orchid Fever – A Horticultural Tale Of Love, Lust and Lunacy’ by Eric Hansen, we come to learn of perfumers working for Shiseido who have consulted orchidologists in order to recreate the specific scent of a delicately perfumed orchid that is favoured in Japan (the perfume was an Asia only release), the Chinese Cymbidium :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shiseido pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indeed, as described, this understated perfume is gentle and delicate, but more than discreetly erotic as well (after all, tentatrice does mean  ‘temptress’ in French); based more on a gorgeously prominent note of palpably living jasmine than any orchid that I have smelled (I was once amazed by the low, numb glow of the scent of a sweet powdered orchid that had opened in the botanical garden at Shinjukugyoen national park: I think previously I had thought that the flowers’ perfume was imaginary ) – though we smell something of the snake in the hothouse here in the foreground as well; leaves, a fresh white, a calm, but also a coquettishness that I remember was much more prevalent here in Japan when I arrived in the late 1990’s when women were less afraid to smell sexy (despite the clannish cultural ‘exclusivity’ of the above, if you can read it, this perfume could work very effectively on anyone, anywhere). There was more of an international mindset still going on at that time, before the slow interiority of the last two decades started to set in to calcify the  veins and women became, on the whole, somewhat more dowdy and/ or ‘childlike’ (and with a tedious prevalence of desexualised rose perfumes to match). Tentatrice is different, and quite imaginable on a much more mentally and physically lithe and unafraid woman of the late Bubble Era who may well still be wearing this mid 90’s fragrance right now somewhere in Tokyo as I write this;  someone chic but not uptight; one who would value her perfume properly,  happily to regularly use these reconstituted flowers – these living, mysterious, sexual analogies  – as ensnaring, and skin close    —   eaux de toilette. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Comments

Filed under Flowers

13 responses to “SHISEIDO ‘TENTATRICE’ ………………..THE ORCHID LADY (1997)

  1. Any orchid perfumes you like or recommend? I love Orchidea by Borsari 1840, a really thick, bosomy creamy orchid perfume that is so erotic it is almost nauseating, and the old one by L’Artisan Parfumeur whose name I can’t remember. I like the powdery orchid notes in Elizabeth Taylor perfumes, but have never smelled the whole Olympic Orchids line. Are they nice?

    I DESPISE TOM FORD BLACK ORCHID.

  2. Sorry just checked and the flower in The Mule is not in fact an orchid, but the daylily – but I am too lazy to change my piece as it sounded right at the time!

    Here I stand corrected for the pedantic.

  3. Also, ultimately I have realized that although I do very much like the first impression in this perfume (and can totally imagine how it could work very well as a ‘Japanese women’s perfume’, the base is not quite rich or powdery enough for me. Maybe it is not for foreigners after all.

  4. David

    In Brazil, orchids are extremely popular. They are often given as gifts. If someone is given an orchid as gift and doesn’t have a green thumb, the person will often take the orchid to a tree outside, grafting it with wire or string along with some kind of burlap (?) material that encourages roots to grow, letting nature take over. I sometimes walk around with the intention just to see all the trees with grafted orchids. It makes me happy that the orchid wasn’t abandoned, left to die.

    Minimalism is a tough one for me. Since last year, I have been giving away a lot of things. I can do my job remotely, and my husband and I like the idea that we could just pack up and move at the drop of a hat if we wanted to (to a cheaper apartment near the centre, to the countryside, to the beach….we have lived in our apartment for more than 2.5 years, and with that length of time, we have the right to sign a month-to-month contract, which we did.) Don’t get me wrong, I love stuff (I spent a good 200,000 yen shipping Japanese things to Brazil during my last year in Tokyo). But I also love giving stuff away (to people who come over: “Oh, you like that Japanese tea cup? Well, I have a whole set plus a tea pot. And let me go ahead and wrap all these things in some vintage kimono cloth. I threw in a book I think you might like). Most of all, I like the idea of just starting over. (We DO NOT follow any Kon Marie “does it spark joy” methodology. )

    I am going to go down a rabbit hole researching orchids today. Thank you for inspiring today’s subject. Your posts over the years have sent me down many a rabbit hole. Thank you for the pushes!

    • And thank you, equally, for the responses. I LOVE this. I am not possessive in terms of physical objects either – I like dinner parties and give things away all the time; a couple of hours ago I gave away a vintage Paloma Picasso – but minimalism, even if I understand its impulses, is DULL AS FUCK. I understand Madame Marie, but really, she is at the OTHER SIDE OF THE RAINBOW.

      Orchids are strange. As you remember, they are used – those white ones in profusion – for new shops and businesses etc and I never like them. So DICTATED. Which obviously isn’t me. I love them old and mangled and as you say, with green thumbs, like orphans straggling out tendrils to find some love. That is when I love them. x

      • David

        Thank you for thanking me. Why do I write this: recently I got chastised by another commenter on a blog I follow for writing a longish comment. That commenter said long comments from readers can come across as “centering” or “taking up space.” Lucky for me, the owner of the blog chimed in and wrote “Go ahead and write a comment as long as you want.” Ha! Vindicated. Apparently, what that other reader did to me is called “gate keeping.” There are so many new internet terms: have you heard of “virtue signaling?” I learned that new term recently. Just as another side note: some dormant blogs I used to follow are coming back because of sheltering at home, quarantining. You never left, so thanks again.

      • The thing is, all of what you have just described is totally alien to me and I couldn’t give a fuck about it. The whole point of The
        Black Narcissus to me is freedom of expression. You can write a twelve page essay and I would never edit it. Why would I? This is probably why I haven’t been successful though in the usual sense, as I am not an internet commercial whore, and never will be

      • Those sound like pretentious terms to describe pretentious actions… but I suppose everything’s got to be called something. I can’t keep up with them either.

      • To each one’s own, of course. As a minimalist, it’s the complete opposite of dull for me. Being free of things that get tiresome to look at because they no longer serve any sentimental or practical purpose allows me to make room for giving the things I enjoy a more prominent place, and it’s quite satisfying.
        I think part of it is the decisiveness that gets honed by the process (it took me years and several moves to get to this point, and I was doing this long before I’d ever heard of M Kondo): nipping potential regrets in the bud because I donate things that others could possibly benefit from and minimize waste by first making sure I won’t end up needing to buy another of the same thing later. I enjoy the things that I have a lot more, because each of those things were deliberately chosen to be here, so to speak. Perhaps at the end of the day, that is what brings the satisfaction versus the relative amount of “stuff.”
        Although I do love having SPACE, too.

        A Nero Wolfe Mystery is another show where the main character is obsessed with orchids. A(nother) eccentric detective who absolutely will not be disturbed during specific hours set aside each day to tend to his precious orchid rooms. In all of these fictional examples, the flower seems to be used to illustrate the characters’ extreme self absorption.
        On a much more plebeian scale, you can easily buy singular pots of orchids at Home Depot.

      • Beautifully put.

        Some might say pretentious!

  5. Suzy Q

    I didn’t know anything about orchids until I read The Orchid Thief by Susan Orleans years ago. The fanatical pursuit of rarity is puzzling to me. I’m thrilled by the beauty in simple–or ordinary things–that are usually overlooked. I don’t know what an orchid smells like. In my imagination it smells like the inside of a florist’s refrigerator.

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