Perfume is so often sold as a gimmick hiding behind a loose concept, so it’s quite easy to become despondent and bored of the lengths niche brands will go to fill a gap in the market. We’ve got to the point where we have perfumes named after blood types and fragrances bottled in flacons crafted in the shape of the human heart, for Pete’s sake. I get that a brand needs to have an identity, and needs to say something unique, but so often the result is nothing more than pretentious fluff that is more style than substance – a fatal flaw of the industry.
That said, every now and then, a brand comes along with a solid concept that is executed to perfection, and most importantly, ties in with the juices in the bottles. Germany brand, Folie À Plusieurs is one such instance of substance working in tandem with style, and their fragrances are as strong as the concept from which they were born. The fragrances are inspired by great works of cinema and aim to capture in scent, specific moments in movies that are poignant, whether that be because they are beautiful and moving, or even because they challenge or disturb.
The five scents in the collection are created by rebellious perfumer Mark Buxton – the man behind Comme des Garçons’ great works (CDG Eau de Parfum, 2 & 2 Man etc.) and Le Labo’s Vetiver 46, and are easily some of his best works. Inspired by memorable moments in Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo, Sion Sono’s Love Exposure, Matthieu Kassovitz’s La Haine and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Folie À Plusieurs oeuvre opens up a world where cinema and fragrance meet in a collision of senses, resulting in a whirlwind of experiences that really strike a chord with the viewer/sniffer. Be prepared for some NSFW content below the jump…
Mood Indigo (Michel Gondry; 2013)
“For me the film L’ecume des jours as a whole was carried by Jazz music; i like this ambiance. The flowers play a strong role (WATER LILY) the film which starts gay and luminous turns and becomes very dark! “indigo”. The fragrance is based on dark woody notes with a lot of incense, which represents the Jazz music for me. There is a short passage in the fragrance, where you can smell the light, bright WATER LILY. The CAMOMILE and RED PEPPER give rhythm and movement to the whole accord” [sic]
– Mark Buxton
Top: Red Pepper and Camomile Romaine
Heart: Geranium, Water Lily and Musk
Base: Sandalwood, Incense, Amber, Cedar Wood and Patchouli
How Does it Smell?
Mood Indigo sees Buxton stay firmly within his comfort zone. The star of the composition is incense, a material that the venerable perfumer has put to good use in many of his fragrances, including his best work for Comme des Garçons, for which he is famous. The tone however, is different here, and instead of opting for his usual ecclesiastical or austere themes, there is a darkness and warmth to the incense of Mood Indigo that is most intriguing. Just when you think Mark Buxton can’t do anything new with incense, along comes Mood Indigo.
Based on the Michel Gondry film of the same name, the fragrance attempts to capture the transition from Gondry’s signature dream-like whimsy to a more depressing tone as things basically turn to shit in the film for the protagonists (for want of a better turn of phrase). Mood Ingido the fragrance therefore, starts with a spicy incense note, accented by the sweetness of violet to give a joyfully bright tone, that is quite out of sorts for such a moody and resinous note.
To symbolise the water lily thriving in the lungs of the protagonist’s love interest, i.e. the catalyst for all of the destruction, Mood Indigo slowly grows to be more floral with time. An oily orchid-like note unfurls, adding a soft contrast to the harshness of the incense. As it fully unravels, and takes control, amber and vanilla join in to fill the gaps and allow for a calming end to what could have been a harsh incense experience. Mood Indigo may not be vastly different from Buxton’s other outings, but it is perhaps one of the best.
Love Exposure (Sion Sono; 2008)
“I was inspired by the films mixture of LOVE, LUST, VIOLENCE, SEX and RELIGION. A story told with a certain kind of humor and a tension that builds up and leads you to an unforeseeable ending. – LOVE. A delicate floral scent, somehow innocent, but heady and strong at the same time. – LUST. Clean, but kinky animal notes which run through the scent like a red thread; costus, Indol and cumin and Ambergris. – VIOLENCE. The surprisingly bloody note from the Bucchu oil, Bay and metallic notes. – SEX. A smelly of hot wet skin communicated through a mixture of musk, vanilla and sandalwood. And – RELIGION. Translated through my all time favorite incense with light sharp woody notes and a touch of amber.” [sic]
– Mark Buxton
Top: Ylang, Magnolia Flowers, Neroli Oil and Cassis
“Delicate but kinky, pursuits of innocence and little wet panties.”
Heart: Bay Oil, Cumin Oil, Costus and Jasmine Sambac
“Strength, the smell of blood shed in the war of love.”
Base: Ençens, Musk, Sandal Wood, Ambergris and Vanilla
“Hot skin after sex, the holy and defiled.”
How Does it Smell?
Flowers and sex go together like bacon and eggs, this is an ancient and well known fact. The hot, fleshy petals of white flowers have often been used to recreate in scent, the most intimate parts of the female form, such as the breasts and inner thigh. Male body parts are often evoked by the use of cumin, a sweaty material that conjures up the image of feral armpits and the base of the spine on a muscular back. In Love Exposure, these two ideals collide to create a perfume that for once, delivers on the promise of smelling like sex.
Love Exposure, the film is a four-hour long tale of “family, lust, religion and the art of upskirt photography”¹ that mixes sex with violence. The scent mainly captures the film’s more carnal aspects, presenting ripe flower buds, awash with greenery and spice, and opening with a flash of body odour. The flowers sit upon a rubbery bed of musk, vanilla and incense that feels sweet and chewy with a touch of leather in the background to accent the animalic feel. This is an x-rated floral that one simply wouldn’t wear to dinner. It’s best left for the bedroom, trust me.
If I had to pick a personal favourite from the collection it would be Love Exposure (yes, the floral, I am, as always, entirely predictable). Whilst I couldn’t make it through the full four hours of the film (my attention span simply isn’t up to sitting for that length of time), I am happy to spend endless time with this floral, which switches between tenderness and aggressive sexuality numerous times throughout its lifespan on the skin. It smells heavenly, intoxicating and for once, really damn sexy.
La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz; 1995)
“A calm yet confrontational scent; mirroring the tension in La Haine that traces the contours of your neck like a sharp cold blade with bucchu sulphor, metallic bloody notes and cold aldehydes. There is a feeling that something is going to happen. As fire ignites and feet hit the pavement, the clock ticks down with cold cedar notes creating a concrete effect, combined with birch tar, burnt rubber, leather and bay oil. Dying out on a cold, damp cellar smell with cedar atlas, dark musk and more. This is a contemplative scent, dark grey, standing between the edge of the film’s black and white treatment and the social and political events dividing France.” [sic]
– Mark Buxton
Top: Cold Aldehydes, Bucchu Sulphor, Metallic Bloody Notes and Rum Aroma
“A slap, arousing consciousness, shattered glass, polished gun steel ignites winter skylines, worn soles in housing projects, freefalling.”
Heart: Bay Oil, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Leather, Cold Cedar, Birch Tar and Burnt Rubber
“Cold sweat breaks at night, burnt tracks drawn on cracked pavements.”
Base: Cedar Atlas, Dark Musk and Moss
“Triggers fall back, dust moves forward, flashbacks, time stands still.”
How Does it Smell?
I’ve smelled some pretty disturbing shit in my time, but La Haine is easily the most challenging, in fact, as far as disgusting scents such as Sécrétions Magnifiques et al go, La Haine takes the biscuit. La Haine pushes the olfactory envelope as far as it can go, and then some. It is a fragrant tour de force quite unlike any other and to call it unsettling is quite a large understatement. If you’ve seen La Haine the movie, you’ll understand what I’m on about, and the fragrance is easily a fitting tribute to the violent, dark and gritty social commentary of the film.
La Haine opens with a leather note that is somewhere between freshly slaughtered pigs and hot metal. It pulsates and gushes with a blood note that is ozonic, smoky and metallic. Reading that last sentence back, I’m aware that the whole thing sounds utterly disgusting and unwearable, but it isn’t. In fact, there’s something attractive about the unsettling nature of La Haine that is strangely wearable. Call me a sicko if you want (I’ve been called worse), but the truth is undeniable – there is beauty in the macabre!
Things become rockier and more mineral-esque in the heart and dry down. The leathery note starts to lean closer to the smoky, meatier side, whilst the rest of the composition becomes dustier and greener. Sniffing La Haine, one feels as if they have been kicked in the gut and sent tumbling down a set of concrete stairs that never end. The experience is disturbing, unusual and fascinating. There is simply nothing else quite like this out there, and that’s probably for the best.
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola; 1999)
“A scent with a strong 70s elements that responds to specific moments of voyeurism, softness and innocence in the film. The beautiful smell of lipstick and make up, a virgin’s young, fresh and teeny like qualities… Tonka, Patchouli and Cedre Sur Iris. Then the confinement of religion, death and remembrance with Incense and Myrrh in the foundation.”
– Mark Buxton
Top: Geranium Oil, Violet Flower and Aldehydes
“Their red lipstick, glitter powder, the rite of passage, hymen cut ribbons mark the opening.”
Heart: Lily of the Valley, Rose Petal, Iris, Benjoin Siam and Tonca
“Soft cotton panties, prom bouquets, porcelain figurines forgotten by prayer.”
Base: Cedre Sur Iris, Patchouli, Incense, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanille and Myrhh
“The dusty remains of an empty room, the sacramental flesh.”
How Does it Smell?
Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’, an adaptation of the Jeffrey Eugenides novel, is a tale of parental control, youthful depression and malaise, not to mention a story of voyeurism and fascination. The fragrance plays with these themes, presenting them in a soft, pastel-shaded package that perfectly captures the slumbering pace of the film, as well as the soft colour palette of ’70’s suburbia. It’s a subtle fragrance that merely hints at the stark darkness of five untimely deaths hidden in a veil of sepia tones, lens flare and make up powder.
The Virgin Suicides opens with violet and aldehydes, and a touch of something that feels slightly astringent and medical, perhaps nail-polish remover or some form of glue. The initial impression is cosmetic, evoking the smell of lipsticks and face powders in a pale shade of blush pink. This is the smell of young girls on the brink of their teenage years, rather than the rouge-fuelled vampish smells and colours of adulthood.
Much of the fragrance rests on a floral blend of rose, violet and iris. There is a minty-geranium feel that adds a touch of freshness to the fray, but the overall impression is of dusty iris powder, vanilla and woods. The whole thing feels remarkably cold and sad, almost as if something is missing, and it hints at the idea of loss, vacancy and emptiness. Perhaps I’m being led by the plot of the film or maybe Buxton has simply translated the sadness and wonder of Coppola’s movie into scent – whatever the reason, The Virgin Suicides makes for a striking piece of work.
The Folie À Plusieurs line is available in the UK at Les Senteurs. Each scent comes in 12ml Eau de Parfum for £29.50.
Sample, videos, notes and quotes via Folie À Plusieurs. ¹ via Wikipedia. Image 1 via the films.