Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Perfume and Art Nostalgically Mix

One of the most nostalgic perfume commercials I always remember with a pang of melancholy in my heart is the one for Cacharel's fragrance Loulou from 1988. Inspired as it was (along with the perfume itself) by Louise Brooks and her ethereal, yet also devilish character in Pabst's Pandora's Box and the cryptic message of a knowing wink beneath a heavy dark fringe it produced a soft spot for every aspiring coquette aged very, very young-ish. The scent caressed every nook and cranny with its voluptuous yet somehow innocent, powdery sweet aura: the seduction of a creature this side of Lilith. And it didn't help that the haunting melody echoed in my ears for years as one of the most touching elegies I have heard to the colour blue in all its literal and figurative permutations...
My joy on finding it (even in its Italian version), after all these years thanks to the wonders of technology, has revealed that its pearly veneer hasn't lost its lustre in my mind and it still produces a sigh of delightful and wistful reminiscence in me, like a dog who is sighing, her paws tucked in and her ears down at the completion of a tender, sad patting as if to part forever.

And here is the divine soundtrack to the above commercial in its full glory: "Pavane, Opus 50" in F-sharp minor by Gabriel Fauré, set to images of impressionistic paintings by Monet.

Do you have a perfume that produces such synaesthetic responses in you? I'd be interested to hear.

Loulou clip originally uploaded by Shescom on Youtube. Pavane clip uploaded by andrewgrummanJC on Youtube.


  1. What a pretty little mysterious commercial, I can see your attachment to it. There is one fragrance that I have ever found really haunting and emotional and that is L'Heure Bleue and that is so intense I really can't wear it.

  2. I love the Fauré music. It's a nice way to start the workday. Thanks!

    As for perfumes that inspire emotion, I could list a dozen. I am very emotionally involved with my perfumes. But here's one that will probably make you laugh: Jontue, by Revlon. It's a very 70s orange blossom scent, very drugstore. It was extremely popular when I was a teenager, and one of my favorite teachers wore it--so it has all the passion of adolescence for me.

  3. Jen,

    isn't it? And I always associated Loulou the scent with L'Heure Bleue you know! The wistful, the romantic, the gourmand element in there (anise-heliotrope), the blue packaging and advertising.....ah!
    L'heure Bleue is haunting me as well. I don't particularly love it in any form I have tried it but one, once, never to encounter it the same again...

  4. M,

    I knew you'd love the music. :-)

    I am not laughing with Jontue! It was one of the perfume gifts I had made to my mom when I was a very little girl and it was all I could afford with my pocket money: I thus have a soft spot for it, actually (I had also gifted her with Le Jardin by Max Factor, mainly because I really liked Jane Seymour, LOL ~those looooooong tresses....). Mum was so sweet and wore them lovingly.

  5. When I put on Mitsouko I feel very sophisticated and yet daring in that flapper kind of way ( I see myself as that pretty and rich girl in the movie "Enchanted April" - she would wear Mitsouko)
    Goutals Heure Esquist (spelling is wrong!) transports me back to the Musee D"Orsay in Paris where I wore it one day while looking at the fantastic Impressionists - especially the pastels there!
    As for Lou Lou - oh yes I have emotion but for my dear Pekingese we had for 17 years. She was named after this perfume but we spelt it Lulu as its alot easier at the Vet etc! LOL Oh Helg she was a beauty and so dignified . I love my pug Rosie (named after Caron's Rose) but Lulu will always be my favourite and we would call her like the ad on TV here - "Lulu -is that you , Lulu?" LOL

  6. I'm entering through the back door, since this remains one of my favorite musical pieces ever...a combination of the piece, and the fact that I love playing it as a flute solo, and happy associations with both performing and listening to it....

    Nostalgia carries such power, and it is arresting to find it in a bottle. I sniffed Jicky for the first time a few weeks sent me into a tailspin of associations, catching glimpses of homes and clothing and tones of voice and types of laughter. I've yet to unravel those.

  7. M,

    how can I disagree about both associations re:Mitsouko and Heure Exquise? Love them both, love your images even better. :-)
    Sorry about your beloved doggie, it must have hurt...and what a lovely name choice. (Pugs are very cute though too!)

  8. S,

    somehow I am not surprised! BTW, there's a rather funny version of this on Youtube with a flute player that's a little....harsh, check it out!
    Jicky is a marvel: never smells the same to me, such a shapeshifter!

  9. synaesthetic is such a beautiful word. I have no idea why at all but Cuir De Russie makes me think of the song Run by Snow Patrol and snowy deserted Russian palaces where the song is playing. Crazy!

    Like Jena I find L'hure Bleu almost unbearably beautiful sometimes and really only wear it alone for the most part now because it distracts me.

  10. Off to find the amusing much wry humor to be found when it comes to that instrument... ;)

  11. I recently blogged about my love for Loulou! I also adore l'heure bleue and I never thought about there being a relationship between the two...but I guess it explains why both scents resonate so deeply with me!

  12. Welcome C'est la vie! Hope you enjoy it here and I am looking forward to your comments :-)

    Loulou and L'heure bleue....oh yes. They both share heliotropin in their heart and a powdery, sweet aspect. They're having a chit-chat those two, they are....
    Nice blog you have there!


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