Bittersweet Monday, in fragrance, film and fiction

bittersweet paris sunsetAh, autumn has finally arrived here. This time of year is my favorite of the seasons for several reasons (my DH’s birthday and mine, our wedding anniversary, the refreshingly cool nights) and it makes me quite happy. But along with that happiness, a hint of bittersweet creeps in, knowing that the dark, cold days of winter will be along soon enough. Also, this month marks the second anniversary of the passing of our dear friends’ adult daughter, who died way too young in an automobile accident.

When it comes to fragrance, L’Artisan’s Seville a l’Aube and vintage Mitsouko parfum never fail to capture a bittersweet aura when I wear them.

Seville a l’Aube smells almost the way autumn feels, if that makes any sense. Although a glorious, colorful season, there’s always that hint of sadness that the bright days of summer are gone. And the reminder that winter’s harsh chill is waiting in the wings (apologies to those of you who might have already had a taste of it). And the Mitsouko, because when I wear my tiny bit of it, it’s so beautiful that it makes me a little sad, knowing that this gem is becoming harder and harder to find. It is a scent we probably won’t see the likes of again.

Thinking about more scents in this vein, Ormonde Jayne Woman and Serge Lutens’ de Profundis come to mind, their beauty tinged by earthy darkness. And who could forget Guerlain’s L’heure Bleue? Paris at day’s end could definitely be a bittersweet moment (especially if it’s your last evening in the City of Light before returning home). As always, I’m sure I’m forgetting some other great fragrances that are transporting.

And just recently, I’ve seen a film that moved me in a similar fashion, “The Painted Veil,” based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, and starring Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. I’ve read that both stars had loved it and long been attached to the project and finally got it made after years of waiting. It came out in 2006, and alas, didn’t make much of a splash in Hollywood circles, although it should have, I think. Its story of misunderstanding, adultery, and vengeance, eventually giving way to respect, forgiveness, and even tenderness, is quite touching and wonderfully acted (not to mention showcasing the gorgeous scenery of China).

I’ve watched it now a number of times, and always wind up teary-eyed, with a lump in my throat, but no doubt that’s the beauty of it. A bittersweet ending for sure, but one that offers at least some uplifting closure.

For comparison’s sake, I read the novel, and although beautifully written, found it bleaker, lacking development of the husband’s character, and leaving precious little room for hope or redemption between the couple. This is one of the rare occasions in which I think the film outshines the book – the movie humanized it somehow, found sympathy for both main characters and gave it more heart.
“I like to think that we didn’t change the book so much as liberate it,” said star and co-producer Norton in one interview I read.

So please share: What perfumes, books or films bring you to a bittersweet state of mind?

Photo borrowed from 123 RF

  • Melissa Pham says:

    Extremely useful info 🙂

  • Suzanne says:

    Hi, Ann! I love this wistfully nostalgic post of yours, and now I will be sure to watch The Painted Veil, as I love Edward Norton (and am happy to read in the comments that you’re also a fan of The Illusionist, which I adore). As to your question, Ironweed (the novel far more than the film), The English Patient (both novel and film), Cider House Rules (both versions), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (novel) and Venus (film with Peter O’Toole) all put me in a bittersweet mood. The perfumes … hmm, I’d definitely agree with your choice of Seville a l’Aube and would add the original YSL Nu, Pafums di Nicolai Sacrebleu, Chanel Coco, Serge Lutens Chene and Guerlain Samsara. I’d better stop there, though can think of several more. 🙂

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, sweet Suzanne! If you loved “The Illusionist,” you’re sure to like (or at least appreciate) “Veil.” I love all your choices, especially the Guerlain and the Pdn (you’ve inspired me to go get mine and wear them). I’ve not seen all your film picks, but “The English Patient” is definitely up there as a melancholy maker. Do let me know what you think of “Veil,” too, sometime. Hugs …

  • Portia says:

    Hey there Ann,
    I’ve been wearing Seville a l’Aube too. What a wonderful, intricate beauty.
    BTW love that pic, it’s the Paris bridge isn’t it?
    Portia xx

    • Ann says:

      Hi, dear! So glad you’re loving the Seville, too. Yes, it’s the Pont Alexandre — so beautiful. Makes me want to go back right NOW !! 🙂

  • AllGirlMafia says:

    I think I generally gravitate to the bittersweet. A few of my foreign films -Fire, Water, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love , Ajami, Namesake are all equally as heartbreaking as they are beautiful. The combination soothes me. Mitsouko is the only emotional fragrance I own that evokes this.

    • Ann says:

      Those sound wonderful; I need to sit down one weekend and just have my own private film fest to see all the excellent foreign films I’ve missed. I’m happy that you, too, are transported by Mitsouko; she is a great lady!

  • rosarita says:

    The Painted Veil is such a great movie! Gris Clair is melancholy to me, or at least what I wear when I’m feeling melancholic. I love Seville l’Aube and wore it all summer – for some reason it feels like summer weather to me.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, dear! Oh, I’m so happy that you, too, enjoyed the film. I had never really seen a whole lot by Edward Norton, but “Veil” put him on my radar in a hurry. I went back and saw his “The Illusionist,” and it was wonderful as well. I remember liking Gris Clair when I first tried it, so I need to revisit it again. Seville is, indeed, a beauty, but one I can only wear at certain times, alas.

  • dinazad says:

    Lutens’ Douce Amère.

    • Ann says:

      You know, I don’t remember ever trying this Serge, or if I did, it was so far back in the day that I can’t remember. Guess I need to get a sample. Sure wish we still had the store here that carried SL, L’Artisan, etc.

      • dinazad says:

        Douce Amère is like a scene from a black-and-white movie for me: the platinum blonde girl outside the night-club in the wee hours. She’s goaded and flirted and used him too much and too often, and now he’s gone. She’s standing there in her slinky, beaded evening dress, her white fur wrap trailing behind her, and all she has are memories of might-have-been. And the snow is beginning to fall…..

        There’s no might-have-been in Seville à l’Aube for me. That one’s a good memory, of heat and passion and the dawn, something you’re happy to have experienced and happy not to have continued, because it would have become ugly – this way you can smile at the warmth of the memory.

        Then there’s Emilio Schuberth’s “Coquillages”, which smells like sitting in a rocking chair on the porch in the soft light of evening and remembering your life, memory as gentle as the dance of the first falling leaves and the breezes of Indian Summer…. (incidentally, read up on Emilio – he was quite the character!)

        • Ann says:

          Thanks, I certainly will, dinazad.And I love all your scent notes. For some reason, my skin really amps the incense, benzoin and beeswax in Seville, thus taking the sweetness and putting it in shadow for a melancholy effect. But no doubt, it’s a beauty any which way you sniff it!

  • Maya says:

    Apes L’Ondee.