lundi 21 septembre 2009

Lumière Noire Pour Femme and Pour Homme, by the Maison Francis Kurkdjian: Twin Roses




Not a month ago, I posted a rant on the ubiquity of patchouli, the peg that’s pushed in every time a perfume needs something dark-woody-gourmand in its basenotes. When it’s not paired Angel-style with fruit and caramel, patchouli’s usual partner-in-crime is rose.

Of course, when it’s done right, the patch-rose combo is a perfectly honourable, classic accord, one which Francis Kurkdjian has already pulled off in Guerlain Rose Barbare and Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance – both roses with more than a couple of thorns left on.

His latest variation on the theme, Lumière Noire pour Femme, is a full-on bodice-ripper of a rose, Baudelairian in its celebration of majestic female flesh –a courtesan trussed in velvet the colour of drying blood trimmed with jet beads, hair tumbling down her back as she downs a flute of champagne. Her shawl carries the smell of the patchouli leaves it was packed with to repel the moths on its way from India. A bunch of jasmine exhales its dying breath between her breasts. A sweaty tendril of cumin rises from her corset…

That touch of reek sets Lumière Noire decades back, into the realm of classic French perfumery, with its intimation of heated bodies and sinful opulence.

The French writer Lumière Noire pour Homme brings to mind isn’t so much Baudelaire as Balzac. Not that this is a particularly Balzacian scent, but because in his novella The Girl with the Golden Eyes (perhaps Balzac’s most Baudelairian work), Henri de Marsay falls in love with Paquita, the mysterious beauty of the title, the captive/lover/protégée of the Marquise de San-Réal – who turns out to be none other than de Marsay’s half-sister… De Marsay’s fatal encounter with Paquita unfolds in the very type of boudoir -- dark, voluptuous and ornate – conjured by both versions Lumière Noire.

Pour Homme is de Marsay’s swashbuckling dandy to Pour Femme’s passionate murderess. The Y chromosome is expressed by a hefty dose of mugwort, aka Artemisia, the bitter green note also found in the archetypal butch-femme perfume Bandit. This aromatic addition pulls Lumière Noire pour Homme further into the chypre territory than its sister, towards Aromatics Elixir or Van Cleef and Arpels pour Homme (a wide-shouldered 80s leather chypre). At first, the mugwort keeps the rose tightly under wraps – as though the marquise de San-Réal had bandaged her breasts to slip into her half-brother’s slim black frock coat. Lumière Noire pour Homme manages to come off as swaggeringly masculine while never quite dispelling that hint of gender ambiguity. But maybe that’s just because we know the sister.



Image by Catherine Servel

31 commentaires:

  1. Oh my (fans self)! I wonder how long it will take for someone to come back across the Atlantic with samples of these for me??? It's starting to feel like an emergency! Between the Mugwort in the Men's and the bodice ripping Femme (I just used that turn of phrase yesterday and amused myself no end), and the honey and orange blossom, all composed more in the manner of classical perfumery than minimalism, I'm in! Thanks for fleshing these out for us, Denyse, so to speak, I wish I were there!

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  2. Wendy, I think the cross-Atlantic trip won't be necessary, at least for that reason: I think the MFKs are coming to LuckyScent. Waiting for confirmation here.

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  3. Denyse, you have really outdone yourself. What a wonderfully seductive review. It makes me want to fly to Paris to pick up samples of the fragrance, AND copies of Balzac and Baudelaire.

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  4. This sounds so great, I'm much atwitter to sniff these.

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  5. Jarvis, start with the reading, and the flight will follow...

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  6. Patty, I hope they won't let you down (you know how it is with writers once they get hold of a metaphor...).

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  7. Oooh la la! Pardon me while I loosen my corset and grab the smelling salts; I believe I'm having a delightful case of the vapors...or something...

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  8. Hi Denise, beautiful review with sensual elements and French literature. It is delightful and awakes the curiosity to sample it immediately! fragrant greetings,

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  9. Carter, the corset motif was suggested by Octavian's own review, but also because I actually wore one this weekend under a vintage tea gown. Yes, you do get vapors (especially dancing to The Kinks). The smelling salts have changed quite a bit, though.

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  10. Cris, thank you. When you do get that chance, read Baudelaire's novella "La Fanfarlo" while you're smelling the Pour Femme.

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  11. Denyse, may I please have your life? I want to wear a corset under a tea dress and dance to the Kinks, even if it means having the vapors...or something...

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  12. Carter, that was the highlight of the year. But I really should have packed sunglasses in that little bag, you know? And that corset *does* get to be a bit much after 14 hours...

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  13. Someone push me in the direction of the nearest chaise longue... I feel faint... "bodice ripper rose" as a description is making me dizzy!

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  14. Mals86, I admit I was feeling inspired!
    ;-)

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  15. You always have a special skill at drawing back the curtains, D...glad I was sitting down for this one...and very glad it was given!

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  16. ScentsScelf - and mind you, that's for a rose-patchouli, a genre I swore I was sick of!

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  17. Lumière Noire chez Kurkdjian
    Nuit Noire chez Mona di Orio...

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  18. She likes it!


    It's so much fun when you get, er, heated up about something, D. I'm filing this one alongside of your Amoureuse review.

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  19. Anonymous: add Encre Noire, Serge Noire, Fourreau Noir, Noir Patchouli (Histoires de parfums), Noir de Noir (Tom Ford), etc., etc. It's about time there was a moratorium on "noir" stuff, isn't it?

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  20. "...and suddenly, you are terribly hot."

    One of the best closers ever.

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  21. As if you didn't already have me hooked at "full-on bodice-ripper," the "touch of reek" and "sinful opulence" did me in. Lucky Scent you say? Soon, I hope.

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  22. Alyssa, it's the school of perfume reviews as erotic short-short story! Maybe that's what I should take up.

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  23. Melissa: no confirmation yet for Luckyscent, but the line is coming soon to Neiman-Marcus.

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  24. they sound bewitching- you write so well- and in two languages- I half manage one!

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  25. Rose, for the languages, being Canadian helps. And thanks!

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  26. This has been so much fun to read; I enjoyed the comment as well.

    So, for the non-French speaker: is this Dark Light? Dark Lantern? Perhaps you said and I missed it...

    Off to my fainting couch, and I don't even like rose that much! (is that a recamier?)

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  27. March, I never did translate this one: it means Black Light (either an oxymoron, or the lamps that make everything white go neon blue).

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  28. "decades back, into the realm of classic French perfumery" - oh my....

    Absolutely fantastic review!

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  29. Rappleyea: thanks. I was feeling inspired...

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  30. I can't wait to put on my sample tonight! I've decided with the change to fall weather now is the time. My recollection from trying Pour Femme on a blotter at the new MFK store in Paris last September was that it made me think of a few older perfumes, but now I don't recall for sure - Mitsouko and also a bit of Aromatics Elixir, I think? But my nose was overloaded since I was perfume boutique-hopping as much as I could with a baby in tow.

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