Thursday, October 12, 2006

Aucun hussard sur le toit

The title of today’s post ironically alludes to the very good homonymous French filmbased on Jean Giono’s novel “Horseman on the roof”, in which Olivier Martinez as an Italian revolutionary soldier flees into cholera-infested 1832 France to escape the Austrian police and meets Juliette Binoche who is in search of her husband.
The association is not completely random as it might seem at first, since Olivier Martinez is the face of the new masculine perfume of Yves Saint Laurent, L’Homme.
Of French and Spanish-Moroccan descent, previously tagged as the French Brad Pitt and currently beau of Kylie Minogue (the game of associations never ends), Martinez never had a hold on me, looks-wise, I have to admit. He has some sort of hazy aspect in his features and a feminine sensuality in his expression that never enticed me. He must have ]a big fan base nevertheless, being chosen as the face of a prestigious house’s new perfume launch.

Yves Saint Laurent needs no introduction and you who know Perfume Shrine’s views on his couture need even less of a lesson. Suffice to say that Tom Ford was not the best thing to befall this historic house and the worthy Stefano Pilati has a hard job in damage control.

Perfume-wise YSL has always been about maximum luxury, glamour, maturity and powerful images: “we are not messing around here”. From the regality and opulence of Opium to the classy icy demeanor of Rive Gauche vintage and from YSL Pour Homme, a classic scent that screams 70’s featuring a nude Yves (click [[popup:yslpourhommenude.jpg::nude Yves::center:1]] to see) when it launched, to the hairy-chested rugged masculinity of Kouros.
In between there were some less vocal scents, such as Y, a chypre of the noblest qualities, Jazz, a nice men’s scent that deserved a better career at the box office, Paris, the heavy-handed craft of Sophia Grojsman for once providing a pleasant effect among her bestsellers and the controversial fruity chypre Champagne that had the vine culturists up in flames to eventually change the name into Yvresse. In Love again and Opium homme were the last memorable ones to come before Tom Ford stepped in. (Baby Doll is rather adolescent, rendering it impossible to categorise along with the rest).

And then all hell broke loose and the iconic women's Rive Gauche got reformulated! Sacrilege! Simultaneously accompanied by Rive Gauche pour Homme (which people say is good, but the shock of the former was so great I have refrained from properly testing on purpose). At that point the future seemed dimly lit, if not dark already.
But then spicy, incense-laden Nu in Eau de parfum (my preferred concentration) launched and managed to make me forget the sins of the past. And M7 for men, which although it is a challenging composition centered on the precious oudh essence manages to smell completely unique and aristocratic and even scandalized the public with a campaign that brought back masculinity into the mainstream of perfume. Cinéma was nice, if a little unimaginative; the expectations were so high!
Yet, most of the more interesting perfumes suffered a poor career at the counters of department stores. The discrepancy is not lost on us.

L’homme, the first one to come in the meta-Ford era, is trying to cover the lost ground by fusing some floral aspect into the composition and using Olivier Martinez with his flou features as the person who stands in what looks like an empty loft with the camera dancing around him.

The bottle in classic YSL tradition is sturdy, heavy and luxurious without becoming ostentatious (Baby Doll is the kitsch exception in their packaging). However it somehow manages to look a tad unattractive and the reason why is hard to put into words. They say it was inspired by Bauhaus; I think not.

In olfactory speaking terms, this fusion of feminine-masculine is done with the inclusion of violet leaves, which give a similar effect to that rendered by iris in Dior Homme. Dior’s Higher with its floral/fruity overtones is also an example that comes to mind, although the advertising of that one was completely effeminate to begin with.
The head of YSL L’homme, with citrusy overtures of ginger and possibly citrus skin, which are surprisingly not tart enough here, plunges into a heart of spicy basil flower sprinkled with pepper and soon after soft violet leaves follow noiselessly giving an ethereal quality usually not associated with masculine fragrances. The moment you smell this stage you are secretly thinking that this could be a nice summer cologne for a woman, but nothing more breathtaking than that. The base mingles soft non-descript woods, from which austere cedar is listed as the core note, although I do detect some haziness and vanillic warmth that further consolidates the meek character of the wholeLinalool and coumarin look like they take part in this neck of woods, so to speak, with their soft ambience, but I can’t be certain. This is not a musky perfume to be sure, contrary to what one would expect. Sandalwood, tonka bean and vetiver are officially listed.
The whole? Pleasant, young and uplifting no doubt, completely unoriginal however. There were enough of classic-feel men’s colognes as it is; Givenchy pour homme, Eternity for men or Bvlgari Aqua to name but a few.

According to one scientific study women choose a rugged virile man between all available choices at time of ovulation in the subconscious presumption that he provides the strongest genetic material for them to procreate, while they change their preference as soon as they are embarking on a pregnancy opting for the one who looks most secure and dependable to stick around. There is nothing wrong with the second image (although combining the two is ideal, don’t you think?). But if you’re looking at spreading your genes, L’homme is not the appropriate choice. It just smells bland.

The fact that no less than 3 noses (Pierre Wargnye, Anne Flipo and Dominique Ropion) have worked on this one points to some confusion as to what vision existed on this scent. Popular sayings may seem corny, but they do hold some truth I’m afraid, and yes, too many people intermingling on one project make for a poor result more often than not.
Perhaps the challenge was too much, perhaps YSL parfums could not afford another mediocre-seller, especially in the huge American market.
Whatever it is, L’homme did not live up to a perfume lover’s anticipation.
Sadly there is no horseman on the roof...

Next review will be of a new release that proved a pleasant surprise!

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