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 October 23, 2014

Extremely useful info :)

Suzanne October 20, 2014

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. :)

Portia October 20, 2014

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

AllGirlMafia October 20, 2014

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.

rosarita October 20, 2014

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.

dinazad October 20, 2014

Lutens' Douce Amère.

Maya October 20, 2014

Apes L'Ondee.