Les Parfums (‘Perfumes’) is a just-released and utterly charming French film following the life of a feared and reclusive ‘nose’, and her troubled realtionship with her new chauffeur.
The English-subtitled film is a gentle comedy, but takes a serious (and very well presented) look at the life of a perfumer, and it has been released in the U.K. Now showing at selected Curzon cinemas, it’s also on Curzon Home Cinema (to stream at home, for those of us not near one of the venues or who prefer to watch from the comfort of our homes).
Curzon Home Cinema says: ‘Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos) is a master in fragrance who has fallen from grace amongst the upper echelons of the perfume industry. However, her skills are still in demand from companies looking to mask the smell of their odorous products. Over the years she has become selfish and temperamental. When she hires Guillaume (Grégory Montel) – a down on his luck chauffeur with too many points on his license and a rocky relationship with his young daughter – they strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they look to repair their lives and create a new signature scent to return Anne to her previous fame.’
There are so few films about perfumers and our sense of smell, and we were thrilled to discover this new movie more than lives up to expectations. Following the rather hapless chauffeur, at first, Guillaume’s first clue to the trials and tribulations ahead with his new client is when she sniffs him, names the brand of his cigarettes and, when he offers her one, throws the packet out the car window. Other clues to her profession (and her character) come when Ms. Walberg demands that he help her change the sheets in a hotel room, declaring: ‘They use a fabric conditioner full of galaxolides for that “clean” smell. I hate it!’
Asked to recreate the smell of an ancient cave to diffuse at a tourist attraction, Ms. Walberg takes Guillaume along with her, rubbing the walls. ‘Mineral, earthy, camphor, touch of moss… Iris root’ she bids him write down in her notebook. Later, she asks him to smell something she’s created on a blotter. He complains that he doesn’t know what it smells of, but she gently encourages him to say whatever thoughts come to mind. ‘Trust yourself.’ Before we know it, Guillaume is in the supermarket, sniffing various shower gels – under the watchful gaze of a bemused security guard. ‘Something quite mellow…’ he says, as the guard shuffles closer, clearly unused to such behaviour in Aisle 5.
The extent of of Walberg’s’ fame is revealed when she smells Dior J’Adore on a waitress and casually tells Guillaume she created it. (In fact, it was composed by perfumer Calice Becker in 1999, but this is a fictional film, after all). Later we learn that, after she became famous with her photo adorning the cover of magazines, she ‘began to lose (my) nose.’ She thought that ‘with my experience of blending I could do it from memory.’ But after making a mistake, her confidence in composing fine fragrance was truly troubled and Devos lost her contract. Her sense of smell came back, but ‘the perfume world is small,’ and so with her reputation struck down in flames, she stuck to smaller, industrial and functional fragrance jobs while avoiding the public gaze.
Suddenly, Walberg loses her sense of smell again. Terrified, she decides to part ways with her pushy agent and, under the treatment of an anosmia specialist – who describes the condition as when ‘The nose and the brain stop working together,’ she begins her journey back into the fragrance world. But can this chauffeur with ‘a good nose’ actually help her recover her reputation and heal his own life…?
Les Parfums is a wonderful evocation of that joy of sharing a love of fragrance, of watching someone develop and explore their own sense of smell. And it’s also a healthy reminder that anosmia – losing one’s sense of smell – can be a terrifying and life-changing experience, even if you don’t happen to be a perfumer. A gentle film that’s slow in pace but nonetheless completely gripping because of the sensitive character portrayal by the two leading actors, there’s some stunning shots of the French countryside and those Parisian streets we miss so much, too. A paean to the world of perfume and the gift that is our sense of smell, we say this is a must-watch for anyone who loves fragrance.
Now we’ve caught your interest, watch the trailer, below, and allow yourself to fall for Les Parfums’ charms…
Did you know that many companies have created novelty fragrances to promote anything and everything from fast-food brands and Stilton cheese to Captain Birds Eye fish fingers? (Yes, really!)
Fragrance is such an individual choice, don’t you think? We all have completely differing reactions to certain notes or combinations – what’s one person’s yum is another’s yuck, and that can be based on anything from childhood memories and cultural or long-buried associations to the simple fact of personal preference. What’s more, there are scents that may remind us of favourite foods or sweet treats we enjoy – the Gourmand family of fragrances have held sway since the 90s.
It would take the concept of ‘niche’ to a whole new level, however, for fragrance fans to actively seek out scents that smell of fried chicken, pizzas and sprouts – no matter how much we might love munching them. Well… you’d think so, wouldn’t you? But increasingly, brands are latching on to the power of perfume to promote their products.
Have YOU tried any of these, or purchased one as a joke gift for a friend…?
Birds Eye recently offered consumers the chance to win a limited edition eau de toilette inspired by Captain Birdseye himself – played by Italian-born actor and seafarer Riccardo Acerbi, who was unveiled at the start of 2018 as part of an £8m marketing campaign for the brand. ‘We know the British public have a soft spot for our captain,’ explained Birds Eye spokeswoman Annalisa Fanali, and so they gave him his own signature scent, ‘inspired by the hypnotic and evocative power of the high seas.’
Named Ahoy! the fragrance promises top notes of grapefruit and mandarin with patchouli, thankfully nothing fishy to smell here. Fifty bottles of the scent were up for grabs in the competition, which ran on Birds Eye’s Facebook page in the run-up to Christmas. If you weren’t a lucky winner, one imagines you wont be able to pop down the shops and pick yourself up a bottle in the immediate future, which is a shame because it sounded rather appealing. Unlike some of the previous novelty fragrances, below…
In 2012, having revolutionised the pizza world with stuffed crusts, the fragrance world was perhaps not ready for Pizza Hut Perfume. What began as a joke on their Facebook page escalated to an actual scent being created, which they temptingly described as ‘boasting top notes of freshly baked, hand-tossed dough.’ The limited edition perfume was designed to commemorate Pizza Hut Canada, and only 110 bottles were produced and shared with fans. ‘Will we be seeing Pizza Hut perfume in department stores any time soon?’ their press release asked. ‘Only time will tell.’ Spoilers: nope.
Currently showcasing their vegan-friendly range, those missing their whiff of something meatier were recently offered a unique opportunity to ‘fill your home with the scent of Gravy’ in a KFC Candle. Another limited edition (no, really?) candles were limited to only 230 editions and again, used as a competition prize on social media. We cannot comment on the authenticity of the gravy scent, sadly, but certainly the wax colour looks… somewhat disturbingly… realistic.
Now this will raise eyebrows (or twitch nostrils), but I don’t think this next one’s as crazy as it perhaps sounds. Eau de Stilton was launched to promote the cheese as part of a marketing campaign all the way back in 2006, and apart from genuinely loving the bottle design, while the sound of a blue cheese-inspired scent might seem off-putting, I think certain undiluted jasmine oils smell like strong cheese – due to the huge amounts of ‘indoles’ found in the aromatic molecules, which to some noses even smells sightly fecal. It goes to show, it depends how something is described before we actually smell it. I’d have given this one a go!
Those fast-food chains really love their fragrances, it seems, because in 2015 we saw Japan promoting a Whopper-scented Burger King Perfume. Alas only available for one day, reportedly, it’s another meaty scent I cannot report first hand (or nose) on, and I will have to try and get over the huge disappointment of that, somehow.
While the majority (if not all) of these are novelty items – released in strictly limited editions to create a media buzz around the brand – it’s an interesting concept that engages us in a different way, and the fragrances will still have been created by a perfumer working to a brief (albeit rather more bizarre than they are used to!) Of course those highlighted above are to be taken with a pinch of salt (and vinegar, as far as the captain’s concerned), but it will be fascinating to see if any other brands pick up on the perfume buzz and create their own ‘scent of’.
Facing the January commute with a feeling of ennui? Download a fragrant podcast to blow away those blues!
We’re thrilled that fragrance is finally getting spoken about more frequently in the media, and in a way that confirms our belief that people are genuinely hungry to hear more – not only about the history, but the truly fascinating new technologies and advances being made. And there’s a plethora of perfume-related content out there at the moment.
We have rounded up some of the very best fragrant listening for you. So sit back, take a deep breath, and immerse yourself in these scented soundscapes…
Fume Chat has long been one of our favourites, presented by fragrance experts (and great friends) Nick Gilbert and Thomas Dunkley. In this latest episode they look back at some of the best fragrances of the decade.
We were so happy to hear We Wear Perfume’s, and regular correspondent for The Perfume Society, Amanda Carr on BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours, discussing fragrance used for wellness and future trends. (Start listening to the conversation at 29:33).
Radio 4 really have a penchant for perfume, it seems, as another of their regular programmes took a fascinating look at the ‘smells and bells’ aspect of religion in Beyond Belief. They ask why smell has become an important part of many faiths and how it enhances religious observance, but also discuss the importance of the sense of smell and memory for everyone – an excellent listen we highly recommend!
Brilliant natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has inspired many to follow her lead, and mentored the founder of Heretic perfumes. The author of nine books about perfumery and essential oils, she is a wealth of information and always great to listen to, so the perfect guest for the Heretic Perfume podcast.
The AMERICAN PERFUMER® Podcast is a fantastic way of keeping up to date with the very latest niche fragrant happenings across the pond, and this episode hands the mic over to self-taught perfumers John Biebel & Hans Hendley.
Those interested in vintage fashion and fashion history will adore exploring the back-catalogue of the Dressed podcast, but this episode takes a look at the ancient process of extracting fragrant oils through enfleurage.
In a perfumed partnership with Fenwick, the presenters discuss the perfumes they can’t get enough of, and talk about fragrancing their homes in innovative ways, in the Outspoken Beauty podcast.
Pinot & Perfume ask: are robots creating fragrances? Spoilers: yes, and they have been for ages (mostly measuring fragrant materials and mixing them precisely), but now we are looking at a future where ‘robots’ might be designing the perfumes you wear..
In this edition of the popular beauty podcast Fat Mascara, David Seth Motlz, of D.S. & Durga, talks about how he became a self-trained perfumer, the bacon-y smell of autumn leaves, and the difference between natural and synthetic fragrance compounds.
Looking at the science behind the beauty indsutry, this episode of Beauty Brains asks what the terms unscented and fragrance free actually mean. Should you avoid fragrance in skin care products? What’s the difference between synthetic and natural fragrances? They seek to find the answers for you…
This series of short podcasts offers bite-sized French lessons to help you better explain yourself, and Learn French By Podcast. Here they will aid you to pass comment on fragrances – food, perfume, flowers, nature, and so on. ‘Let’s study, in this short lesson, some expressions which will allows us to do that. We’ll meet the verbs “sentir” and “mettre”, in particular. We’ll also see how to say that something smells quite strong.’
Whichever of these fragrance-related podcasts you listen to, we’re sure you’ll be equally thrilled to find the world of fragrance slowly (very slowly) opening up to the wider world. Like, subscribe and leave reviews to encourage this ongoing media discussion – and who knows what the next year will bring to further fragrance our airwaves…?
Many famous faces have graced the mini-films of fragrance adverts over the years – for some, their first acting role, for others a moment of evoking the ethos of the house at the very peak of their fame. But did you know several fragrance adverts over the years have also been directed by famous names?
Settle back in your velveteen seats, grab some popcorn and let’s go to the scented cinema…
Sofia Coppola (nominated for Best Director for Lost in Translation in 2003) directed this advert for Miss Dior Cherie, featuring Natalie Portman. Super-stylish, it confirms Coppola’s lifelong appreciation of haute couture, and perhaps evokes her visually stunning film Marie Antoinette in its old-world baroque splendour.
Wes Anderson and son of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola, had previously worked together on films like The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. Here, they made three short adverts (comprising one longer film) for Prada Candy L’Eau fragrance. An homage to the French New Wave, the visual aesthetic is pure Wes Anderson, and were fully gripped by the classic ‘two men in love with one woman’ storyline
This Chanel short film for Coco Mademoiselle saw Keira Knightly and director Joe Wright teaming up for the fourth time – they’ve also worked together in Atonement, (for which, Wright was nominated in 2008 for Best Director), Pride & Prejudice, and Anna Karenina. Just so beautifully lit, the colours and cleverly composed shots look like poetry on the screen.
Renowned surrealist director David Lynch surprised the fragrance and film worlds alike by directing this advert for Yves Saint Laurent Opium in the early 90s. Spanish model Nastassia Urbano stars, with a striking resemblance to Ingrid Bergman (and her daughter, Isabella Rossellini, who was to star in his 1986 hot movie, Blue Velvet). All the hallmarks of sensuality are there, along with a visual deconstruction/seduction of a body on film.
Comic book writer turned film maker, Frank Miller, uses his iconic deliberately over-stylised look (very reminiscent of Sin City) to great effect in his advert for Gucci Guilty. Starring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans, inky blackness and searing white light are juxtaposed to create a highly sophisticated homage to film noir.
Fragrance and film feature strongly in The Scented Letter‘s recent Perfume & Culture edition, too, in Lights, Camera, Aldehydes!, award-winning blogger and author Persolaise was inspired by his twin passions for film and fragrance – matching some of his favourite fragrances to the films he chose to watch. And in Perfuming a Part, I lift the velvet curtain on the actors and film directors who use fragrance as a tool to create a mood or get into a role…
Our favourite perfume podcast took a bit of a hiatus – some scented breathing space, if you will – but now Fume Chat is BACK for a second season of fun, facts and fragrant memories!
If you’re a new listener, really all you need to know is that Fume Chat is hosted by long-time friends and fragrance experts, Nick Gilbert and Thomas Dunkley. Nick is a fragrance evaluator, co-founder of scent consultancy Olfiction, and has frequently appeared on radio, television, and in print media sharing his insights on the fragrance industry. Thomas is perhaps better known as The Candy Perfume Boy – a multi-award-winning writer for several websites and publications along with his own blog, now working with Nick and perfumer Pia Long at Olfiction, as well as a fellow contributor to our The Scented Letter magazine.
So, between them, there’s very little Nick and Thomas don’t know about fragrance – from behind-the-scenes of creation and working with ‘noses’, to retail training and through to reviewing their own shelf-groaning collections of scent. We’re not quite sure how they find time to also work on their own podcast, but we’re awfully glad they do – as you will be when you give Fume Chat a listen.
This second series is a good place to start for new listeners as well as long-term audio addicts, because in the first episode, our hosts discuss their perfume origin stories – how on earth they got into this weird and wonderful world of fragrance – as well as sniffing out some new scents to sniff. Later episodes will follow a similar path to the first series (which we urge you to go back and binge on) with special guests, ‘Battle’ episodes (where Nick and Thomas put two favourite fragrances up against each other and argue their case for which should ‘win’ the battle), and hours of factually interesting, inspirational and most importantly fun fragrant chat.
We have two warnings, though….
1: be prepared to have your scented shopping list grow exponentially.
2: be prepared to have the catchy theme tune in your head for the rest of the day/week/month.
The main thing for Fume Chat is to make the world of fragrance accessible for everyone – something we at The Perfume Society wholeheartedly agree with and constantly work towards – and oh guys, it’s good to have you back!
Save your cart?
We save your email and cart so we can send you reminders - don't email me.
Join The Perfume Society mailing list and be the first to know about all things fragrant.
We take your privacy seriously. We will only use your details to keep you informed about The Perfume Society. We do not pass personal information to any other organisation. You can unsubscribe at any time.
By browsing our site or closing this message, you agree to store Cookies by us and third-party partners. Cookies enable certain functions on our site, let you access your account, place orders, allow us to analyse website traffic and usage, and personalise content. We also share certain information about your usage of our site with analytics partners. Find out more.