The absinthe scene in Coppola’s “Dracula”, the world around swimming in a mysterious sea of green. My nana’s old, but strong hands burrowing deeper inside the black, fertile earth, planting her narcissi, hyacinths and tulips, cradling carefully the fragile bulbs from which sweet, spicy, musky beauty was going to arise. Honey dripping over tanned, hot skin. Oh, and the smell of his body, so warm, the feel of it, smooth like velvet, there, in those secret places. So damn intoxicating! I could rest my cheek against such preciousness forever. My mother bathed in the morning light, singing bittersweet love songs and getting the linden blossoms tea ready. Jumping up and down on hay bales. Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi in the movie “I am love”, her white skin capturing the blinding sheen of a fallen angel, while she was being loved among tall grasses and insects buzzing lazily in the heat of the summer. A funeral during a blistering July, the incense smoke, and salty tears and the smell of decay escaping from underneath the masses of half wilted flowers. Life’s happiness and sadness and the myriad of small things in between. These were some of the images and thoughts flooding my brain the second I put Masque’s “Romanza” on. A fragrance that is first and foremost alive.
Young perfumer Cristiano Canali has achieved a rare feat: a passionate, moving tour de force around a difficult and expensive material, the narcissus absolute. He managed to create something completely beautiful without striping away any of the “ugly” bits of his raw ingredients, a perfume that is soothing and feral at the same time, elegant yet rough.
I love the complex textural feeling I get from this fragrance: dry and moist, sweet and bitter, oily and powdery, soft and scratchy, animalic and floral and so on. A way to simplify the complicated nuances puzzle of “Romanza”, is to look at it as an intensely, almost cutting green floral wrapped around a warm woody-ambery accord with animalic inflections. And this is basically it. But it would be a pity to try and simplify, analyse, box in, compartmentalise a thing that is living and breathing on the skin like that, a thing that keeps changing and pulsating like some weird alien just being born. Scary yet somehow tender and fragile. At some point the animalic vibe it’s so golden naughty, so warm and addictive and comforting you forget all about the beginning’s poisonous floral trauma, and I mean that trauma in the best possible sense. It’s a shock to the senses, but it comes with the precious side effect of any shock: it makes you feel alive and totally immersed in the moment. The far drydown reminded me a bit of Molinard Habanita, with far less powder and sweetness, but the vetiver it’s just as scrumptious. To be honest I’m moved beyond words of such emotional display in a perfume. It truly is a liquid poem, and alas when it comes to words I’m not poet enough to sing its praise the way it should be sung. With force and vulnerability and realness. I hope at least you’ll try it and hear its message clearly: to live and love before it’s too late for any living and loving to be still done.
NOTES: absinthe, angelica, orange blossom, violet leaf, narcissus absolute, jasmine, vetiver, cedar, patchouli, amber, civet, myrrh
*Image: still from the movie “I am love”