Thursday, March 7, 2013

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin: fragrance review

Much as Serge has always dwelled in the aesthetes of the 19th century, if there is one art movement of the 20th century which would reflect his innermost demons that would be German expressionism; the intensity of the play of light & shadow on the silver screen is a metaphor for the battle of good and evil. La Fille de Berlin, cool, powdery rose spiked with spices, and the latest Lutens fragrance in the canon, reflects the struggle of a soft feminine flower with the naughtiness of animalic winks; the two faces of Eve, which had fully prepared me to expect a Metropolis-rising Lang vision, real and artificial blurring. But I soon found out that Serge was influenced by Josef von Sternberg and his classic Der blaue Engel instead, not strictly in the genre but smack-down in the midst of it in 1930.
artwork by Alexey Kurbatov via

She's a rose with thorns, don't mess with her.
She's a girl who goes to extremes.
When she can, she soothes; and when she wants ... !
 Her fragrance lifts you higher, she rocks and shocks.
 ~Serge Lutens
German Expressionism never left us, really. The angular, shadowed architectural specimens encountered in places like New York City, reflected in the fantastical Gotham of the Batman series, and the numerous homages to emblematic leitmotifs of the movement, such as in the films of Burton, Proyas and -to a lesser degree- Allen, merely prove that the juxtaposition of light & shadow (a more schematic carry-over from the chiaroscuro of the Masters) is as relevant today as it ever was. After all, humans are a mix of the two, aren't they? More apropos, Serge Lutens might be making a cultural commentary of our times, right in the heart of the melting pot that is modern Europe: much as Siegfried Kracauer's study "From Caligari to Hitler" examines the trajectory from this strained, anguished cinema images of the Weimar Republik to Nazi Germany, today's world in crisis with the darkness prevailing in fashion & design might be a reflective prologue to an even darker, more sinister era. Respectable professors turning into ridiculed and despaired madmen, the light of the blond hair of Siegfried eclipsed.
Let's hope not, but it's a poignant and potent omen nevertheless.

The metallic opening in La Fille de Berlin fragrance predisposes for the treatment withheld for rose in Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent; chilling and distant, as if hailing from the tundra. But give it a few minutes in the warmth of a Blue Angel's skin, hot off the beckoning performance on the stage, and it turns into the softest, velvety rose with a cardamom impression and the tartness of a hint of raspberry. But even warmer things hide in the background with an intimate and dirty musk and civet allusion (so very familiar in the Lutens opus) surfacing to wrap things in plush and sex.

Those who have found Sa Majeste la Rose too green-fruity for their tastes and his Rose de Nuit marvelously creuscular but too elusive, would find a good ally in La Fille de Berlin. I find it more feminine than shared, but if like Serge himself, oh gentle man you're of the "perfume is a celebration" frame of mind, you might want to try it out for yourself.


  1. Bravo!

    I am black and white and angular all over with a renewed excitement.

    The dandy tried this in Paris just a couple of weeks back, but the weather was so cold and yet the streets so inviting that nearly every fragrance perished - the flickering images of La Fille sadly included.

    At the time I put the momentary cinematic feel it gave off down to Left Bank romanticizing, but now you have uncovered that thought and perhaps I was not so far off key.

    Time to try again in warmer climes with thoughts of the Blue Angel herself methinks.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Anonymous11:43

    I have been very curious about this one and was confused about the references, since there were many theories, glad to find out what is the real inspiration behind it, thank you for the beautiful review.


  3. I no longer fight it. Whatever Mr. Lutens does, I want to try it.
    Chances are Im going to love it too. :)

  4. TPD,

    ah, I do have the added advantage of a mild climate and therefore everything "blooms". (This was more apparent while years ago I was testing Messe de Minuit, which is reviewed on these pages).
    I think by spring/summer in the UK you will have grasped its full splendor~ at least if it isn't as cold as last summer was! (*doing a little mock voodoo exorcism to sway off such bad luck off you*)

  5. Aline,

    you're welcome. Do try it if you can, it's very lovely and should probably appeal to your tastes, from what I recall.

  6. Ines,

    awww, love your defeated acceptance of the genius! :-D
    I am very much giddy over the last few great releases; everything I tried I loved, with a rekindled passion which resembles the one by the newly converted, if that is possible!

  7. Prince Barry18:40

    I have it sprayed on my hand now.

    A wonderful review as always E.

    I could wear this perfume very easily. I have quite oily skin, and it always brings out the richness of a scent and seems to hide the powdery aspects. To me, it is a deep and rich purple rose with just a few traces of morning dew remaining. The warmth of the sun releasing the narcotic mysterious scent.

  8. B,

    thank you! :-)

    Oh then you're lucky. I find oilier skins do give the more robust elements something to adhere to and make things a bit darker and more meaningful. And things last longer too.
    I love your way of putting it, very true!

  9. Minty raspberry geranium rose! Nice


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