Yves Saint Laurent Cinema

Monday night brought the classic “wintry mix” to the Washington area – a custom blend of sleet, hail, ice and freezing rain that translates into good luck getting out of your house.  I spent much of today shoveling ice and praying that the children will be back in school tomorrow.

It seemed like the perfect time to write up a review of Yves Saint Laurent Cinema, created by Jacques Cavallier in 2004.  Notes are clementine, almond blossom, cyclamen, jasmine, peony, amaryllis, benzoin, amber, musk, vanilla. Here, let me paste in some hilarious copy from Fragrantica:  “Cinema can make every woman feel like a star. It is a fragrance for glamorous women who live under the spotlights, self-confident and elegant, women who know how to draw the attention. A seductive flavor reminds of Hollywood beauties from the romantic love movies, glamourous evening gowns, Hollywood hairstyles, high heels, black seamed stockings…”

Uh … no.  Maybe this is partly why Cinema’s one of those fragrances that seems very under-the-radar to me in perfumista-ville, because once you’re done with all that bodice-ripping copy up there you’re bound to be disappointed in the scent.

Cinema could easily have fit into my oddball vanilla post from last week and, in fact, I thought about including it, but decided it was worth its own review, given how often I wear it.  I worked through five (!) small manufacturer’s sprays, deciding if I even liked it, one of my longer-range scent indecisions, before finally getting my hands on a bottle during the Posse swap.

I can definitely smell the clementine at the top, a juicy burst of orange that cuts the sweetness of the floral notes that follow.  I can’t pick any of that list of flowers out individually, just a hazy, sweet suggestion that keeps Cinema from being a straight-out vanilla, and also keeps it from being gourmand in the way that some vanilla scents drive people nuts by smelling too much like vanilla extract.   It’s a little powdery (maybe the almond blossom?) but not terribly much so, as I don’t especially like powdery notes and Cinema doesn’t get on my nerves.  The drydown is a warm amber-musk with that smoky-balsam benzoin, over a solid base of vanilla.  Again, this might be a vanilla scent to try if you’re looking for an edge of vanilla rather than a deluge.

Cinema is one of those soothing scents that seems perfect at bedtime, which is mostly when I wear it, or during the day when I want warmth and comfort the way I want hot cocoa, home-baked cookies and a fire in the fireplace.  It reminds me a little of L’Artisan Vanilia, only less weird and with a hint of sophistication, but not too much.

The bottle – a tall, glamorous thing that looks nice on the dresser – is clearly in line with the marketing message, but at odds with the scent itself, which seems perfectly content to put on a cashmere bathrobe and stay in for the evening, reading a good mystery novel, rather than head out for a night on the town.

Endnote: I have a bottle of the eau de parfum, which I find vastly superior to the thin, watery EdT.  They also make a parfum, and I’m trying not to duplicate my scents endlessly in terms of concentration, but I’d be curious if anyone has tried it.  Cinema strikes me as something that might be quite lovely and different in the parfum.

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  • Tara C says:

    I had a bottle of it, liked it, then stupidly swapped it away, so I had to buy another bottle when I missed it. It’s nothing spectacular, but I really like it.

  • Victoria says:

    You know, I did not smell Cinema for ages, and then suddenly I got an urge to try it, so I got a sample of it. Looking forward to sampling, especially after your review.
    P.S. It is an indication of my organizational prowess when I would rather pay to buy a sample than to dig through my boxes to find it. LOL!

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I had forgotten all about Cinema! I’ve dug out my bottle and I smell great. :-) I completely agree about the marketing/ fragrance disconnect- the former calls to mind a woman decked out in designer dresses fabulous jewellery who calls everyone darling whilst air-kissing and the latter is a woman dressed in the Gap wearing very little jewellery or makeup probably with small people in tow. Or maybe that is just ‘me! :d
    Thanks for reminding ‘me, March!

    • March says:

      Glad to be of service, and pleased to find a small number of people who know (and love) the scent. I’m still wearing it tonight. Two days is something of a record for me.

  • Shelley says:

    Cinema was one of those I stumbled into early in my perfume descent, because the perfect storm came together: I found it cheap online, it was YSL (and I was being foiled in my attempts to find Champagne/Yvresse or Y, so “YSL” was on the brain), and I didn’t know from anything but was willing to roll the dice. Extra bonus: the bottle looked kind of cool. Sure enough, it arrived, the bottle was cool, and I liked what was inside. I like how the citrus lilts it without turning it into a creamsicle. Much. In the end, I’m glad I have it, but wouldn’t push anyone to go out of their way to find it.

    In my mind, it’s kind of a summer alternative to Organza Indecence. Though now that I sprayed it on the back of my hand to remember it, it’s also kind of like Theorema without the wood. No, maybe I’m nuts. Okay, I’m nuts, but am I right? Argh.

    BTW, there’s a really cute purse spray bottle. Same bumpled with text glass, but skinny. (For a person who says I’m not in it for the bottles, I’m talking a lot about bottles…)

    • March says:

      That’s a great description — your comparison to Organza Indecence and Theorema. Theorema’s very orange-y on me, but this could be their love-child.

  • maidenbliss says:

    Prays? Maybe that was the right word! Hehe

  • maidenbliss says:

    Nina, there’s quite a few listings on eBay.
    I ‘almost’ clicked buy, thanks to your lovely description, March, but I just cannot justify buying one more scent. Unless it’s unbelievably spectacular. I haven’t even gotten through all the swap
    fumes so I’m reigning in my lust.
    Why do you have to make me want it? 5 maufacturer’s prays? Come on. I don’t want this. I. Don’t.

    • March says:

      Hehe. Well, all the samples I tried of this were manufacturers sprays from eBay, which at least is cheap. I can’t say I’d call it “unbelievably spectacular.”

  • Nina Z says:

    What? I never even heard of this before, and now you’ve made me desperate to try it. Argh. Where can I find some?

    • March says:

      In the US it’s easy to find online, either from perfume stores or on eBay. Ebay has the sample sprays usually, if you want to try that first.

  • sara says:

    I love this one and have been hoarding my bottle! I remember reading that is is DC’ed in the US but I saw it all over Paris last week.

  • vanessa says:

    I have an 8ml mini of the EDP, and have a feeling that the notes in the EDT may be slightly different – mimosa is ringing a bell for some reason. Not that you see testers of the EDT anymore to conduct a side by side comparison. And based on your experience it would seem I am not missing much.

    That said, I recently did an unexpected 180 on MDCI Promesse de L’Aube, suddenly finding it too sweet, and am quietly concerned that I might do a volte-nez on Cinema one of these days…

    ; – )

    • March says:

      The notes lists are crazy. I did wonder if there’s mimosa in the EdP, since mimosa’s powdery on me. And I never see testers anywhere. I think even Sephora got rid of it, at least in their stores around here.

      Terrible about the MDCI!

      • Tommasina says:

        March, as far as I know, Cinema is no longer sold in the US, though it’s readily available in France (and quite possibly the rest of Europe, too).

        • March says:

          Thanks. We can get it online here and, as someone below pointed out, mom-and-pop perfume stores seem to have it sitting around.

      • Kym says:

        I just bought a bottle of this a few months ago. You might have better luck in a dedicated perfume store (I found mine at a family-run, stand-alone business that also had a huge stash of pre-reformulations of Guerlains and various Carons, which I’ve never encountered in the flesh, aside from Saks and BG in NYC). I find that the department stores just don’t keep that much interesting stock these days. My local Nordies is just brutal – they never had an impressive selection, but just recently cut the selection to the bone and only stock the newer scents…Good luck!

    • Sherri M. says:


      I also had a change of heart concerning Promesse de l’Aube. I was so cautious before buying. I went through two samples from Lucky Scent, then purchased a spray sample from TPC (having had the experience of loving something dabbed, only to find it a migraine-inducing sillage monster sprayed. Everything seemed great, so I bit the bullet and bought the full bottle and…Lemon Pledge!! Did I just get a bad bottle or what??! The citrus note was merely in the background of the samples. So I’m now waiting for Spring or Summer to see if I like it again or if it goes off to ebay…sigh…the good news is I like Bois d’Armenie which I hated last Spring–too heavy and masculine (the TN humidity must make it so). Now that it is actually cold I get the smoke and incense and gorgeousness.

      Hang in there with the all the kids home!! :-)

      • vanessa says:

        Sherri M,

        How interesting that you have had the same flipflopping issue on Promesse de L’Aube as me! I used to think of it as ethereal lemon meringue, but now it comes over as sickly cotton wool! Luckily I only own a few ml of Promesse from swaps, and I hope you will be reconciled to your bottle. Could it get sweeter as it ages, I wonder?

        Meanwhile, I think I may be going the other way on Bois d’Armenie ie finding it heavy and masculine, and I own sizeable decants of that! Perhaps the two of us should routinely confer before investing in anything?

        : – ):-\”

  • Musette says:

    I’d never heard of this until you mentioned it during Swapmania…then again, I walked through YSL with blinders on for most of the 70s80s90s, save Paris….:-?
    This one doesn’t quite ‘me’ alas, – I always think I would like comfort scents but nearly never do..weird, as I could really use something comfy right now. 21F, with a nice gale-force wind, a sheet of ice on everything…and now it’s snowing..


    xo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Oh, no, poor baby — now you have the nasty weather again. This winter cannot end soon enough for me!

    • March says:

      Gah, you have the worst weather. I don’t miss weather in the midwest, at all. (I went to college in MO, which I think you know.) As bad as DC can be, I could never fathom how central MO could be so miserably hot in the summer and so cold in the winter. Add in tornadoes, etc., and eeeek.

      • Musette says:

        it is a strange part of the world,innit?

        Wearing Balahe today – a little schweet. That tips it out of comfort and into b-(

        then again, I think Mitsouko is comforting, so what do I know…

        xo >-)

  • Astrid says:

    Great review! For me this one (EdP) has an overdose of that scratchy, chemical woods/musk found in many newer scents (Alfred Sung Paradise is the worst; EA Mediterranean has it also. I believe it’s called “cashmere woods”).

    Unlike most with this chemical, however, the raspy fake woodsiness somehow works with Cinema’s overlying sweetness. I got it at a very good discount, but wouldn’t buy it at full price. It somehow still strikes me with a sense of mediocre quality, probably the chemical undertones.

    • March says:

      That’s funny, I know the woods whereof you speak, and Cinema didn’t wander into that dark forest for me. Maybe it’s the mediocrity you feel that contributes to its low profile! /:) On me it’s just pure comfort.

  • Francesca says:

    But…is it for women?

  • Ann says:

    Oh, no, March! Now you have the horrific weather! Hope the kids can go back to school ASAP — we were out all of last week and had EXTREME cabin fever. To add insult to injury, the one day we could get out, my car battery died.
    Thanks for the heads-up on Cinema; I seem to remember kind of liking it back in the day, so will definitely have to revist.

    • March says:

      Yup, kids back in school today, thank goodness. I have some errands to run, including groceries, which I’m sure will be a nightmare. And if you like soft vanilla comfort scents, Cinema’s worth a go.

  • pam says:

    I have been wanting to try this for a while, because I love so many of the YSL scents. And I love your description of Cinema staying home in a bathrobe etc. LOL. But that makes me want to smell it even more.

    • March says:

      I love a lot of YSL too, and I couldn’t find a single review on the blogs of this one (although maybe I missed one.) I do think the total disconnect between the name/marketing/etc. and that cuddly fragrance is part of the problem.

  • hongkongmom says:

    oh no ice, snow.. and my daughter leaves this sunday to look at colleges in the washington, boston area…i am worried about the weather, but here was no other time, as she has her IB examinations and acceptance dates round about the same time….phew I really hope for her sake and my hubbie, that it will be “travelable”

    • March says:

      I know, we’re muddling through some of the IB stuff right now. I can’t wait for the next two years to be over, in that department. And with luck all this will have cleared. Most of the ice here is melted already; can’t speak for Boston, though.

  • hongkongmom says:

    i have not smell this March…but now I need to!

  • Kim says:

    I love Cinema in both EdP and Parfum. I find the parfum to be very similar to the EdP, stronger as would be expected, but with a bit less clementine Initially and a bit more benzoin and vanilla in the dry down. The bottle of the parfum strength has that same lovely cut glass texture but in matte gold – very elegant and more cashmere robe-like. And I would definitely say the parfum strength is more of an evening scent than the EdP, but I have worn both in the day-time.
    Is the parfum worth the extra money? I think not as I prefer more edge to my vanilla so if it is vanilla I want, I go for Lutens Un Bois Vanille. Plus I like the extra dollop of clementine in the EdP. But I love Cinema and wouldn’t say no to the parfum strength in a swap.