Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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December 22, 2015:

That quote alone is a fitting metaphor for how Aomassaï comes across to me, and it’s equally telling of the film. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, two people fall in love with each other by way of loving something larger – the world itself – and in so doing, their romance becomes an inclusive experience for the viewer. Wearing a perfume like Aomassaï is a reminder of this, and of the delicious experiences I don’t want to miss out on. 

Perfume and a Movie: Parfumerie Generale Aomassai and
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 

Images of actors Steve Carell and Keira Knightley (collected from numerous sites on the Internet) are from the 2012 American comedy-drama, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria in her directorial debut.  Currently it can be streamed for online viewing at Amazon.com or Netflix.

Perfume bottle image stolen from LuckyScent.com, where this scent can be purchased.

Not long after discovering the perfume blogs back in 2006 or 2007, I purchased a decant of Parfumerie Générale Aomassaï, and after using up every drop, my thought was that I loved it, sort of. It had a gourmand element that was scrumptious, but I felt guilty about loving its burnt-toffee deliciousness, so when the decant was used up I tried to forget about Aomassaï and to a degree was successful, if only because my perfume collection grew rapidly during those early years of reading the blogs. Periodically, though, I found myself thinking about its dark, rich beauty and about a ritual I had adopted at the time. I was in the habit of wearing a “sleep scent” (a perfume worn to bed, to extend the pleasure of wearing perfume) and I would apply Aomassaï after taking a hot bath that I made hotter, as well as cooler, with drops of peppermint oil. After emerging with mentholated skin, applying Aomassaï was the finishing touch to this spa-like ritual which could be likened to taking a steam bath and following it with a sauna, with Aomassaï metaphorically providing the sauna’s heat and deliciously fragrant wood. It was a ritual in which warmth was achieved not just bodily but in the brain. The peppermint-to-Aomassaï experience fired across my pleasure receptors like a mallet rolling the entire length of a xylophone and back again.

Fast forward to where I am now, with more perfume than I will ever use in this lifetime. I rarely buy perfume for myself anymore, yet a very big sale at one of the decanting sites recently spurred a very large purchase of Aomassaï -- and I can now say I won’t ever again feel guilty about loving its gourmand facet (which is not as overtly gourmand as I’d remembered), nor question whether it’s a “serious” perfume. For me it is one of those perfumes, like the original Chanel Coco or like Arquiste Anima Dulcis, which conveys the fullness of life, when life is at its most beautiful. It has whimsy and warmth and passion and, yes, a sense of gravitas too. It’s the kind of scent that goes beyond comfort; that stirs deeper, “pondering” thoughts about it. At least this is the case for me, because I’ve been thinking of this fragrance, off and on, for years, and then this past summer (before I purchased it) I found myself thinking about it in connection to a film.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an intimate, almost breathy film that seems fragile when I try to capture it in words. Not that it starts off in a breathy fashion: shortly after its gets underway, it takes us to a truly garish party – the kind of free-for-all one might expect if the world was ending – where its protagonist, a gentleman named Dodge (played by Steve Carell), wisely decides to make like a wallflower and retreat home, to his own four walls, where he exists much like a wallflower too. Actually, more like a doormat. It soon becomes clear that this was never “home sweet home” for him, but circumstances are such that he now must leave it behind – quickly. At least he’s not going alone. Accompanying him is one of the neighbors of his apartment building, a young woman named Penny (Keira Knightley). Together they weave their way through a maze of quirky events at the beginning of their road trip (both have a final mission, of sorts, they wish to fulfill) and yet, in the way this film is emotionally weighted, all the darkly weird stuff they navigate in the beginning of the film is just that – stuff: bizarre hurdles rather than anything fraught with peril. Interestingly, while the film’s dark elements have little weight and often provide levity, its lighter moments have a beautiful gravity that accumulates over the span of the story. The more time that Dodge and Penny spend together, the lighter, sweeter and, yet, more poignant their interaction becomes. Overall, this is a fine-boned drama borne on a tide of quirky, dark humor; of unexpected romance that is sweet and delicate and pure (not in terms of innocence but in terms of feeling); and of an inevitable sense of the apocalypse. The latter element provides the framework for this film’s story: Dodge and Penny are essentially two strangers trying to get through “the end times” together, with the end times in this case being the demolishment of Earth by an asteroid that is scheduled to collide with the planet in three weeks’ time.

“… I mean, they're not for everyone, you know? You really have to take care of vinyl. It's very delicate, it can get wrecked so easily. You really have to love it. Do you hear how full it sounds? Now, what you want to buy is a thicker record. They're more stable. The grooves in them are sort of deeper and wider. You get more detail. I mean, they're harder to carry around 'cause they're heavier, but they're worth it. You know, my parents have this... It's an amazing turntable. It's vintage, cherry wood Victor 45. Oh! Perfect tone. All the original parts. I can't wait to hear it again.”

Parfumerie Générale Aomassaï (also known as Aomassaï No. 10) eau de parfum can be purchased from the perfumer’s website or from LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $125.

I loved this film so much, I wanted to assign a perfume to it, as a way of anchoring it to my memory in a Pavlovian sort of way. Based on memory alone, Aomassaï struck me as its perfect olfactory complement, and now I can confirm it. The fragrance notes for Aomassaï are listed as caramel, toasted hazelnuts, licorice, bitter orange, spices, wenge wood, vetiver, balsam wood, incense, dried grasses and resins. Perusing them gives one the impression that this is a heavy scent, and heavily gourmand, when in actuality it is only so in the first five to ten minutes of wear. The burnt-toffee aroma of Aomassaï’s opening accord is arid to the degree that it doesn’t cloy; its dark opening salvo has presence but, surprisingly, not a thick or heavy weight. In fact, it’s much like the brûléed top to a crème brûlée: an obsidian-like sweet that imparts character, presence and even a bit of levity in its invitation to break through its shell to get to the crème. Except, in the case of Aomassaï, what lies beneath its burnt-sweet top is not creaminess but a balsamy, resinous woodiness that is surprisingly soft for an accord that retains an edge of swarthiness. Aomassaï’s woody base smells as if it long ago soaked up a bit of dark rum or bourbon, and these ambery-rich smells impregnating the wood render it more dashing and arresting. This isn’t the wood of a woodshop or a forest; it is wood that once traveled and perhaps had swashbuckling adventures, and most likely conveyed some sort of precious cargo – and which holds onto the memory of these things.

In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, there is a point midway through the film, when Penny and Dodge are nearing the end of their road trip and are holed up in someone’s house, enjoying a reprieve from chaos and listening to records – the old kind. “I don’t know, I just... I love records,” Penny tells him, as they’re lying on the floor together:

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