Not an Obvious Pairing, but One that Soothed:
The film, Cherry Blossoms, and the perfume, Cherry Musk

Recently I watched the (Dorris Dörrie-directed) German film, Cherry Blossoms, about an elderly married couple who, in ways unbeknownst to either of them, are dealing with the grief of separation: the ultimate separation known as death. It’s a film that made me cry like a baby, yet when it was over, I felt good. I felt like I had witnessed something extraordinarily moving and refreshing, because essentially what I watched was one member of this couple crossing over a great gulf: the gulf of personality—of true identity—that was surrendered by the other when they formed a union. In real life, this can happen to either party in a relationship, but in this story it’s the wife, Trudi, who has set aside her dreams and even a basic part of her artistic nature in order to have this other thing she cherishes: marriage and family. She is married to Rudi, a man she loves and who is faithful to her and to their life of quiet routine. Rudi works as a civil servant, crunching numbers for the Department of Waste Management, and has little interest in anything that smacks of art or adventure—and it is he who will eventually cross this gulf I mentioned. It’s a gulf we aren’t aware of at first: all we know is that this couple doesn’t have much time left together, if a doctor’s prognosis is correct, so they are about to embark on a trip. While Trudi has always longed to go to Japan, and it’s a country they have further reason to visit—their youngest son lives there—she can only convince Rudi to journey as far as Berlin, where their other two children have made their respective homes. So, the two of them set out from their village in Bavaria on a trip that ends up being almost cruel in terms of its disappointments: their children (unaware they might be seeing one of their parents for the last time) view them as a major inconvenience and do little to hide the fact. Their lesbian daughter, who hasn’t any children and seems to lead a bohemian existence, can’t even be bothered to take her parents on a day-tour of the city. Instead, she begs her girlfriend to do it.


This ends up being a good thing. Their daughter’s girlfriend doesn’t have any preconceived notions about the couple, and it is through her that Rudi begins to realize how much Trudi has sacrificed for her family. The girlfriend takes the couple to a Butoh dance performance, which leaves Rudi bored out of his mind and sitting outside the theater, while Trudi watches it in a transfixed state and is moved to tears. Trudi’s connection to this arcane art form becomes clearer as the film progresses: through a sweet moment the couple experiences together while staying at a hotel, to a conversation their daughter’s girlfriend has with Rudi later on, we learn that Butoh has long been a secret love of Trudi’s. Secret not because she didn’t wish to share it, but because it made Rudi uncomfortable when she performed it, so it existed mainly in that reservoir of self I referred to earlier as a gulf (because it strikes me as being as an underwater version of oneself: a pool dipped into privately and which remains murky to others, who have only a surface awareness of it).



Usually when I write about a film in relation to a perfume, it’s because I see an analogy between the two that allows me to describe the perfume in a more meaningful and interesting way. This week, however, one could say that this film chose me. The news of the Boston Marathon bombing hit me harder than I expected, and when I tried to write about perfume, I found myself thinking instead about the three young people who lost their lives—and everyone else who had an integral piece of themselves ripped from them, whether physically, emotionally or both—and the only thing that seemed meaningful to write about was this film, which then dictated my perfume choice. Cherry blossoms and Hanami (the Japanese word for “flower viewing”) figure into the film’s story as a symbol of the impermanence of life—and, hence, the need to be fully present to witness life’s fleeting moments of beauty. I have no cherry blossom perfume in my collection, but I do have a sample of Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk perfume (sent to me by lovely Undina), and while I’m not implying that it bears any resemblance to cherry blossoms, it ended up being a perfume that at least matched the mood of the film and the mood I was in—for much to my surprise, Cherry Musk is a more mature and beautiful scent than I’d ever have guessed.


Its composition may be simple, and its name might strike one as cute, but Cherry Musk is not a sweet or girlishly pink perfume. When first applied, it has a citrus smell that reminds me of mandarin orange, as it is a warm and honeyed citrus rather than a brisk and airy one. Very quickly, this citrus opening is met and replaced by a cherry aroma that is surprisingly deep and bears an almost perfect resemblance to kirsch—that clear brandy that is popular in German-speaking countries and which is not sweet at all, but has flavors of both cherry and bitter almond. The musk in Cherry Musk suspends this kirsch-like smell in a fuzzy cloud that allows the scent to hover, like the clouds over Mt. Fuji, for a long period of time on the skin. Without robbing the scent of its husky, cherry-brandy warmth, the musk does lend a blanket-like softness and diffusion. This is a comfort scent, but one for adults, and as it enters the far dry-down on the skin, I’m also aware of a dry woodiness that reminds me of gaiacwood and that makes me think Cherry Musk might have an appeal for anyone of the male gender who isn’t afraid to look past this perfume’s name. While anything with cherry in the name seems to smack of feminine associations, really it should not, considering how cherry is an essence that has been used to flavor such manly things as pipe tobacco.


And in thinking about this last point, it strikes me how unexpectedly fitting this perfume turned out to be while thinking about this film. The impressive thing about Rudi’s journey is that when he went in search of Trudi, he let there be no boundaries, at one point donning her clothing. That kind of flowering is rare—perhaps it only happens in films—but it is a beautiful thing to contemplate at a time of grief.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

But people are wont to cross gulfs when a more permanent form of separation looms, and for Rudi and Trudi, there comes a point in their story where he wants to make his way back to her—to know and to honor her on a soulful level . Naturally, to do this involves a trip to Japan and, again, the aid of an outsider, as Rudi’s youngest son appears to be even less tolerant of his old man than the other kids were. For a while, this trip looks like it’s going to be a bust, but then one day in a park near his son’s apartment, Rudi meets a teenage Butoh dancer named Yu, and the two of them form a relationship that is a moving thing in itself to witness, and which leads to a journey to Mt. Fuji: the place where Rudi reunites (in a sense) with Trudi, in a way that is profoundly stirring.​

April 20, 2013:

Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk has notes of white musk, fruit musk, cherry accord, strawberry, tree moss, and Chinese rose. It can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is $185. My review is based on a sample sent by friend and fellow perfume-blogger, Undina.

Images from the 2008 film, Cherry Blossoms, were found at various internet movie sites.
Bottle image is from Luckyscent.com.



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