5 Beautiful Things : Perfume, Movies, Books and More

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Every culture has a saying the gist of which is that the little joys make for the greatest happiness. Yet, as one’s routine threatens to overwhelm, even simple pleasures become something that one needs to carefully plan—a visit to the museum, an afternoon of doing nothing, a candlelit dinner. Nevertheless, there are certain things that are essential in the course of my day. They are my sources of inspiration and much more. They allow me to be aware of beauty at its most essential, and whenever the pressures of work or life threaten to push me over the edge, I only need to turn to my talismans to get things back on track.

Perfumes

Perfume is the most portable form of beauty, and it is the most intimate one. I could name many more than just five fragrances that capture my idea of perfection, but these five never fail to amaze me. They are the ones that allow me to discover new facets in them each time I wear them.

Guerlain Après L’Ondée
Après L’Ondée is not just exquisite, it is magical. It weaves iris, violet and soft oriental notes into a delicate accord. This beauty is more than a 100 years old, which is difficult to believe contemplating its perfect form.

Chanel Cuir de Russie
The smoky iris and soft leather of Cuir de Russie create a striking composition. The contrast between the austerity and elegance that is obvious in all classical Chanel fragrance is well-developed here. In today’s Cuir de Russie, the accent is more on the latter, with iris and jasmine taking precedence over the rough richness of leather. Still mesmerizing.

Serge Lutens Bois de Violette
Bois de Violette and Iris Silver Mist are the two Serge Lutens fragrances that I wear the most. Bois de Violette moves me the most, because of the way the wood and the floral elements meld into a beautiful, abstract form.

Christian Dior Diorella
The sensual ripeness contrasted with the watery freshness is already fascinating, but Diorella has so many facets that the only meaningful comparison I can make is to a perfectly cut diamond.

Annick Goutal Sables
Sables is a simple accord, but its simplicity belies its richness and depth. The dark heft of sandalwood and immortelle is interspersed with dry, delicately bitter notes. It is a pleasure to revisit it just to surprise oneself with its laconic way of evoking opulence.

Films

I love great cinema that makes me think, but I equally enjoy escapist favorites that have no pretentions to greatness—Russian detective series, some particularly silly Bollywood films, etc. However, I have a few favorite films that I watch for their beautiful cinematography as much as for anything else. Here are five of them.

In the Mood for Love
Set in 1960s Hong Kong, this is one of the most seductive platonic love stories. The soundtrack of tango mixed with Chinese music is alone worth the price of admission.

Umrao Jaan
This 1981 Bollywood film, directed by Muzaffar Ali is based on the 1905 Urdu novel about a famous 19th century courtesan Umrao Jaan. The gorgeous dancing, opulent sets and dramatic lightning that make many scenes reminiscent of Vermeer’s paintings makes Umrao Jaan unique. Unlike the typical masala type Bollywood films that have predictable plots and plenty of song and dance sequences, Umrao Jaan does not play by the rules of the genre and offers an experience that is both stimulating and touching.

The Earrings of Madame de...
I will be forever in debt to my dear friend Farran of Self-Styled Siren, who introduced me to this gem. A 1953 drama film directed by Max Ophüls tells the story of Madame de… who decides to sell who the earrings she received from her husband as a wedding gift to pay off her debts and the events that result from this action. The film is set in the aristocratic circles of 19th century Paris, and the scenery and costumes are splendid. One of my favorite scenes is a series of waltzes danced by Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica, in which their costumes, surroundings and feelings towards each other change, even as the dance itself never stops.

L’Avventura
Michelangelo Antonioni’s film L’Avventura was pronounced the best film in 1960 (after it was first booed at the Cannes Film Festival,) and for me its magic never disappears, nomatter how many times I watch it. I love the beautiful architectural shots, which make every frame seem like a perfect and striking image. I love the way the camera glides over the face of Monica Vitti, the lead actress, betraying the feelings that the director had for her. I love the way the visual cues tell us more about the story than the shared words.

The Leopard
Can a film that includes Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale be anything but beautiful? The Leopard, a 1963 Italian film by director Luchino Visconti is even much more than this. Based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, it tells the story of the decline of Sicilian aristocracy. Another great waltzing scene that almost rivals that of The Earrings of Madame de

 

Books

Ivan Bunin’s The Life of Arseniev
Unlike other Russian classics, Ivan Bunin is not particularly well-known in the West, despite him having won a Nobel prize. His semi-autobiographical novel about a young writer is a great example of his elegant prose. Another great author, Vladimir Nabokov, famously called the sumptuous texture created by his words as “Bunin brocade,” and it is indeed rich and colorful, without being purple or overwrought.

Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
One can seek ideas and meanings in great works of classics, but I once again agree with Nabokov who found more importance and artistic merit in the way Tolstoy describes the curls of dark hair on Anna’s neck than in Levin’s views on agriculture. “Her coiffure was not striking. All that was noticeable was the little willful tendrils of her curly hair that would always break free about her neck and temples.”

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
I learned French as a teenager only to read Madame Bovary in the original. It was worth the pain of struggling over irregular verbs and rules to which there are more exceptions than normal cases. “Often when Charles was out she took from the cupboard, between the folds of the linen were she had left it, the green silk cigar-case. She looked at it, opened it, and even smelt the odour of the lining-a mixture of verbena and tobacco. Whose was it? The Viscount’s? Perhaps it was a present from his mistress. It had been embroidered on some rosewood frame, a pretty little thing, hidden from all eyes, that had occupied many hours, and over which had fallen the soft curls of the pensive worker. A breath of love had passed over the stitches on the canvas; each prick of the needle had fixed there a hope or a memory, and all those interwoven threads of silk were but the continuity of the same silent passion. And then one morning the Viscount had taken it away with him. Of what had they spoken when it lay upon the wide-mantelled chimneys between flower-vases and Pompadour clocks? She was at Tostes; he was at Paris now, far away? What was this Paris like? What a vague name! She repeated it in a low voice, for the mere pleasure of it; it rang in her ears like a great cathedral bell; it shone before her eyes, even on the labels of her pomade-pots.”

Elizabeth David anything, but particularly An Omelette and a Glass of Wine
I do not know of another food writer that manages to convey flavors and sensations better than Elizabeth David. Her impressive erudition makes her essays irresistible to me. “Does it matter very much that by the time you have driven fifty miles and settled on your picnic spot your parcels are a little crumpled, your wine a trifle warm… your chocolate beginning to melt? After all, it is summer. You are on holiday. You are in company of your own choosing. The air is clean. You can smell wild fennel and thyme, dry resinous pine needles, the sea. For my part, I ask no greater luxury. Indeed I can think of none.” (from “Summer Cooking”.)

The Arabian Nights (Sir Richard Burtons’ translation)
“Then she stopped at a perfumer’s and took from him ten sorts of waters, rose scented with musk, orange-flower, water-lily, willow-flower, violet and five others. And she also bought two loaves of sugar, a bottle for perfume-spraying, a lump of male incense, aloe wood, ambergris, and musk, with candles of Alexandria wax” (from the story of The Porter and The Three Ladies of Baghdad.) Beautiful, sumptuous, magical…

 

Photography by Vera

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49 Comments

  • Andy: I love your description of your comforts as talismans! A few of mine are Lapsang Souchong tea (just makes me feel warm and cozy), my collection of amber resin, and a set of sandalwood mala beads which I must just to wear to appreciate. November 17, 2011 at 6:21am Reply

  • Dl: My picks would be: perfume: l’heure bleue, el attarine, cuir de russie, carnal flower, iris silver mist. Films: au hasard balthazar by bresson, ludwig by visconti, vertigo by hitchcock, the idiots by lars von trier and gertrud by dreyer. Books: the idiot by dostoyevsky, the wings of the dove by Henry james, penthesilee by Von kleist, fictions by Borges, and I guess Anna karenina has to be on that list too.long time reader, first time poster:love your blog, your writing is delightful and your tastes exquisite. November 17, 2011 at 7:28am Reply

  • Elizabeth: I love posts like this! I just finished reading Anna Karenina yesterday, and the chapters of her interior monologue right before she kills herself are the most riveting passages I have ever read. Someday I will read them in the original Russian (though that will take a lot of time)!

    My five talisman perfumes are L’Eau d’Hiver, Passage d’Enfer, Joy, La Myrrhe, and just plain rosewater. November 17, 2011 at 7:38am Reply

  • Kristina: Seems that Anna Karenina has a lot of fans out there – count me among them! Plus Pnin by Nabokov, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, Short Stories by Richard Ford. Perfumes: Ormonde Woman, Delrae Mythique, Chanel Sycomore, Eau D’Italie Paestum Rose… Movies: Vertigo by Hitchcock, Ninotchka by Lubitsch, anything by Billy Wilder, The Godfather trilogy.. I could name so many more! November 17, 2011 at 9:01am Reply

  • Victoria: It sounds like such a beautiful collection of favorites. I have some precious objects like that as well that do not fit into the categories above: my great grandmother’s recipe books come to mind immediately. Your mention of Lapsang Souchong tea made me brew a pot right away. What kind of you prefer? November 17, 2011 at 9:46am Reply

  • Victoria: DI, thank you for your kind words and for sharing your favorites. What a great list! I could live in your perfume favorites, and you list of favorite books reminds me that I need to explore Borges and re-read Henry James. I love his Italian Hours, which I sometimes read simply to clear my head.

    “She has high spirits or low, she is pale or red, grey or pink,
    cold or warm, fresh or wan, according to the weather or the hour.
    She is always interesting and almost always sad; but she has a
    thousand occasional graces and is always liable to happy
    accidents. You become extraordinarily fond of these things; you
    count upon them; they make part of your life. Tenderly fond you
    become; there is something indefinable in those depths of
    personal acquaintance that gradually establish themselves.” (from “Venice”) November 17, 2011 at 9:49am Reply

  • Victoria: Plain rosewater is something that I keep on hand too. It is so good to refresh oneself in the middle of the day, or in the evening. I find the scent to be relaxing.

    I love the attention to detail by Tolstoy, the little touches that make the characters seem so real. I also read Bunin’s account of meeting Tolstoy. “Write, write, but only if you really want to,” he told Bunin on their first meeting. “Just remember that such a thing can in no way be the purpose of your life.” Bunin quotes Tolstoy at another time: “The only thing needed in both art and life is not to lie.” November 17, 2011 at 9:54am Reply

  • Victoria: Whenever I read the top 100 or the best of literature lists, it always figures prominently.

    Vertigo is such a great film. Once in San Francisco, I actually traces the places where the character went. I cannot think of SF without thinking immediately of this film. I love Hitchcock in general, and Vertigo and Rear Window are my favorites. November 17, 2011 at 9:57am Reply

  • Nikki: Beauty in all things:
    Talisman perfumes: Angelique Encens by Creed, Sables by Annick Goutal, Eau Sauvage by Dior, First by Van Cleef and Arpels and Shalimar Extrait by Guerlain; Books: Henry James, Heinrich Heine, Hermann Hesse, Guy de Maupassant and Balzac; Movies: anything with Marlene Dietrich, Dean Spaniel (movie from 2008 with Sam Neill) about reincarnation and dogs, old movies with Errol Flynn, Roberto Rossellini movies, Billy Wilder comedies…
    and may I add: a red or pink cyclamen in the midst of winter, a velvety purple African violet in bloom, cafe au lait with cinnamon, oolong tea, and cuddling with my dogs. November 17, 2011 at 10:11am Reply

  • Victoria: Now that I’ve finished my tea (thanks to Andy for inspiration,) I want that cafe au lait! I never drink it with cinnamon, but it sounds wonderful, and I will be sure to try it this way. November 17, 2011 at 10:27am Reply

  • Kristina: Oh, that’s what I’m planning to do next year – going to SF to see all these places! Actually, another one of my all-time favourite movies is set there, What’s up, Doc? by Peter Bogdanovich starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, probably one of the most hilarious films that ever hit the silver screen. November 17, 2011 at 10:34am Reply

  • Nikki: here you go:

    use French Market coffee or any New Orleans style coffee with chicory
    boil milk with cinnamon sticks
    pour the 2 together, sprinkle a little cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg
    et voila! November 17, 2011 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Suzanne: Victoria, your post reminded me that not only is In the Mood for Love a beautiful (and sad) love story, but I don’t think any film has ever featured so many beautiful dresses, just one after the other. I feel like watching it right now. November 17, 2011 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: I haven't seen it, so I should definitely rent it. Thank you, another great recommendation! November 17, 2011 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: Perfect! I have only regular coffee, but I love the idea of boiling milk with cinnamon sticks. It would release so much flavor. Thank you! November 17, 2011 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: The dresses are amazing, especially given the saturated, rich color scheme that Wong Kar Wai is using. And the story is bittersweet. November 17, 2011 at 1:46pm Reply

  • Musette: Kristina!

    I have watched WUD so many times and each time find something new to enjoy. The first time I watched the garbage can scene I laughed so hard I nearly choked! Glad to know there’s another longtime fan out there! November 17, 2011 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Musette: What a gorgeous post and so appropriate for these days and times when all news seems to be apocalyptic! I have mostly middlebrow book talismans (you’d think graduate studies in 19th c Continental Novels would’ve cured that but nooooo :-). I love early Thomas Perry – Metzger’s Dog is so elegantly written – and Georgette Heyer Regency romances. Such a perfect way to escape our current times. My food comfort is Recchiuti’s fleur de sel caramels. A stolen afternoon, drinking Billecart-Salmon brut, eating fds caramels and reading a Heyer novel…bliss.

    Movies are all over the place – the original BBC (Fay Weldon adaption) of Pride and Prejudice, Kate Beckinsale’s Emma and the Pierce Brosnan version of The Thomas Crown Affair. Nothing intriguing – my life is ‘intriguing’ enough! LOL!

    ps. you made my heart skip a beat with the mention of Diorella! thank you! November 17, 2011 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Graduate studies would only encourage branching out! 🙂 Farran also introduced me to Heyer, and I'm enjoying her novels very much. Glad to meet another fan.

    Bollywood is my favorite escapist pleasure, or at least, one of them. And my mom supplies me with the Russian detective series, which have pretty much the same plot–a beautiful girl finds herself caught in some situation involving a murder, and she tries to resolve it. An oligarch who speaks 5 languages and reads Turgenev in between oil deals comes to her rescue. They are unintentionally hysterical. November 17, 2011 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Nikki: I love the idea of those caramels…I have to try them, Musette. November 17, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Dl: Never read this one. Should get to it soon. The undecidability of his characters and the nuances in his descriptions of them never ceases to amaze me. I would love to read your review of El Attarine. It is often overlooked but I find it to be one of Lutens’ best: its effect on me is similar to l’heure bleue’s. a sort of melancholy-tinged joy (if that makes any sense), born from the conjunction of richness and dryness in it. November 17, 2011 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Andy: My favorite Lapsang Souchong is from Art of Tea, as I think theirs is the best balanced one I’ve tried. The smoked flavor does not compromise the flavor of the tea itself from shining through, yet it is by no means weak on the smoky flavor. November 17, 2011 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Lmscribe@hotmail.com: Beautiful, beautiful. Victoria, you are a joy to read and always provide much needed fodder for contemplation. Thanks. November 17, 2011 at 5:33pm Reply

  • behemot: Victoria, what a wonderful post! I am totally with you on L’Avventura and The Leopard. I also love all Fellini’s from the 60’s. (8 1/2 is my favorite)
    Today, my talismans are “Broken Flowers” , directed by Jim Jarmush and anything “Lion King” and Harry Potter.
    As of Anna Karenina, it has heavily influenced my life. I read it when I was 8 and it was on vacation in Polish Tatra Mountains. Reading Anna Karenina, I developed a strong fear of trains and rails, that I refused to take a train back to Krakow after the vacation ended. Instead , I chose a ride in an old volga car with Mr. Stefan, a boring economist, who happened to adore my newly divorced, beutiful mom. (I hated Mr. Stefan, by the way)
    I am still afraid of trains, trams and subway (Very inconvenient in NY, Paris and London).. I try to make use of my sense of humor, when dealing with this issue.
    But still love Anna K. . I love Master and Margarita, too..
    I have just bought Bois de Violette. I have been looking at the bottle on Ebay for 2 weeks, and after your post, I decided to finally get it. Thanks! November 17, 2011 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you for such a nice compliment. I like sharing some of these musings! November 17, 2011 at 10:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, and enjoy Bois de Violette! You will never regret that purchase. What a gem! November 17, 2011 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: DI, it is my omission, and I will review it next week. It is definitely one of Lutens’ best fragrances. I am surprised that it is so rarely mentioned. I also love the way you describe it, which is a perfect characterization. November 17, 2011 at 10:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Andy! I will be sure to try it, and I will let you know how I like it. True to my Russian upbringing, I cannot contemplate a day without a cup of tea. November 17, 2011 at 10:23pm Reply

  • behemot: Beautiful. I remember this , of course, but never read it in English before…Only in Polish and Russian.
    These flowers.. I imagined them as something with invisible thorns. November 17, 2011 at 11:34pm Reply

  • behemot: Of course I will never regret it!
    I also want to mention I purchased SL Ambre Sultan after I read our review. I always loved AS , but prpbably needed some encouraging.. Love this fragrance. I am wearing it today. Thanks, Victoria. November 17, 2011 at 11:38pm Reply

  • Christine: Hello, I tend to lurk here but this is such a lovely post. My talisman perfumes are Ormonde Woman, Aftelier Cepes et Tuberose, Shalimar and my hoarded samples of Amouage Lyric Woman. Of books I am a Jane Austen (all) lover and also the books of George Elliot, particularly Middlemarch. I now have to confess that I am rather ignorant of Russian literature. I read Anna Karenina many years ago and found it hard going but wonder whether it was the particular translation I read because I remember not liking the language. My final talisman is just to walk round my garden when I need to rebalance things. November 18, 2011 at 2:04am Reply

  • Victoria: Your story is great! It reminds me a little of myself reading The Master and Margarita for the first time when I was 11. Since then I have hated yellow flowers. Do you remember that passage?

    “She was carrying these revolting, disturbing yellow flowers. God knows what they’re called, but for some reason they’re the first to appear in Moscow. And these flowers stood out very distinctly from her black spring coat. She was carrying yellow flowers! Not a nice colour. She turned off Tverskaya and onto a side street, and then she turned round. You know Tverskaya, I presume? Thousands of people were walking along Tverskaya, but I swear to you that she saw me alone and looked at me not quite with alarm but with a kind of sickness even. And I was struck not so much by her beauty as by a remarkable loneliness in her eyes which was hidden to everyone else. Obeying the summons of the yellow flowers, I turned off into the sidestreet and began to follow her. We walked in silence along a dreary winding street, me on one side and her on the other. And amazingly there wasn’t another soul on that street. I was anxious because I felt that I should say something to her, and I was afraid that I would say nothing and she would disappear and I’d never see her again. And can you imagine, she immediately spoke up, saying: “Do you like my flowers?” I distinctly remember the sound of her voice, a little on the deep side, but with these little fluctuations, and for some reason it seemed to me that it was echoing off a grimy yellow wall nearby.” November 17, 2011 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: I read it in Russian and then later in French and English to find the translation I liked the most. I'm obsessed with this novel, so I like to recommend it to friends. Yet, not all translations capture the style well, so I tried doing some research. November 18, 2011 at 7:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Your garden walk sounds wonderful! What do you grow in your garden?

    Translation quality is essential, although Tolstoy is not as difficult to translate as some other Russian authors. I'm very late at discovering Jane Austin's work, but I'm enjoying her writing very much. I'm currently reading Mansfield Park. November 18, 2011 at 7:34am Reply

  • Victoria: You are most welcome! I also repurchased a bottle of AS recently. It is really an amber gold standard, and it is such a pleasure on these cold fall/winter days. November 18, 2011 at 7:36am Reply

  • Dl: Speaking of translations of russian novels, one author I found very different translations of is Dostoievski. I’ve read many translations to french of his novels and my favorites are Andre Markowicz’s. The others make his style seem very classical, similar to french 19th century writers whereas in Markowicz’ translations it’s very “heurté” (sorry can’t find an equivalent in english) and somehow more faithful to the characters. Unfortunately I don’t speak or read russian and I wonder which is more faithful to his style. Markowicz’ translation of Gogol’s short stories is also very nice. November 18, 2011 at 10:03am Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: Oh d*mn I can’t write as much as I would like in response to your lovely post (work can be tedious sometimes!) But three things struck such a deep chord I had to say “YES” – Diorella, Anna Karenina, and The Master and Margherita. And then Apres l’Ondee, although not a favourite, has a place in my heart because Linda wears it in The Pursuit of Love, my ultimate comfort book.
    Nicola November 18, 2011 at 11:56am Reply

  • Victoria: We share many favorites! So, I am adding your recommendation to my to-read list. November 19, 2011 at 12:50pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am not familiar with Markowicz’ translations, but I will definitely look for them. Gogol is especially difficult to translate. He would create his own words, and even twisted the pattern of syntax, which sometimes plays a crucial role in the texture of his prose. November 19, 2011 at 12:52pm Reply

  • Lavanya: What a wonderful post and one after my own heart!
    I loved In the Mood for Love too- my favorite parts were went she’d go down the staircase to buy noodles..:)
    My husband loves Antonioni and we watched L’Avventura together. It is beautifully made. He loves L’eclisse and La Notte too so they are on my list of ‘must watch films’..Have you watched them?

    I’ve been trying to play catch-up on the Russian writers that are on my ‘must’ list..Currently (finally) reading Brothers Karamazov after reading bits of it over the years..Thank you for recommending Ivan Bunin- I will try to get my hands on the Life of Arseneiv..

    My favorites:

    Movies:
    1. Luis Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
    2. Anything by Yasujiro Ozu especially Autumn Afternoon,Late Autumn
    3. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket
    4. Luis Bunuel’s Obscure Object of Desire (can you tell I love Bunuel..:))
    5. In the Mood for Love/ Jules and Jim/ Aranyer Din ratri
    I also enjoy old Hindi movies that I grew up watching as a child mainly for the music..:)

    Books:
    1. George Eliot’s Middlemarch
    2. Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence
    3. Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being
    4. Anything by Jane Austen
    5. Coetze’s disgrace

    Perfume (this list is more fluid and will probably change with seasons)
    1. Carnal Flower (I owe you one for this love- I wouldn’t have revisited this but for you..:))
    2. Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle
    3. Montale Black Aoud
    4. Chanel No. 5 vintage parfum and PdN Le Temp
    5. Aftelier Tango/Cepes and Tuberose/Secret Garden

    Ok- I can’t pick 5..lol November 22, 2011 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I just read this comment after posting mine and realized you might be my scent and book twin..lol November 22, 2011 at 6:24pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I have to add Abbas Kiarostami to my list of films/film makers- I love his aesthetic and style and what he does with the medium..Sorry for the super long comment November 22, 2011 at 6:36pm Reply

  • Victoria: Don’t ever apologize for long comments! Thank you so much for sharing. November 22, 2011 at 6:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: That is my favorite part of In the Mood for Love. I love the music, the framing and the colors of those scenes.

    L’eclisse and La Notte are great, and I definitely recommend them. L’Avventura is still a favorite, but then again, I would watch anything with Monica Vitti and by Antonioni.

    Which old Hindi movies do you like? I love the soundtrack in Teesri Manzil (and of course, how can one not love Helen, especially when she is bedecked in feathers and doing her strange improvisational dances.) November 22, 2011 at 6:48pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I watched Teesri Manzil relatively recently and enjoyed it- it had songs by one of my favorite singers (Mohd. Rafi), though not necessarily in the style that I enjoy..lol. (I do like the song: Tumne Mujhe Dekha from the film)

    I love the music in Guru Dutt Movies and in a lot of the 50s and 60s movies including those with Dev Anand.

    My favorite Hindi films (not just for the music) would be : Pyaasa , Kaagaz Ke Phool (both Guru Dutt), Sujata, Bandini (all these were serious, not masala but not quite art house kind of films and with lovely music) though I am not sure if I would love these if I watched them for the first time now- but I loved them as a kid so love them now too…:).

    Hrishikesh Mukherjee films like Gol Maal and Chupke Chupke. These were fun movies, not entirely in the masala Bollywood vein but very enjoyable. Also 1980s movies like Arth and Masoom both for the music/lyrics and the content. I also enjoyed Ghar but more for the music/lyrics than anything else. November 22, 2011 at 7:35pm Reply

  • Katherine: I love this post. Have you seen the original Umrao Jaan, with Rekha? A gorgeous film and actress. November 26, 2011 at 10:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: That's the one I love. The new version with Aishwarya Rai is sumptuous, but lacks the nuance. November 27, 2011 at 8:51am Reply

  • Anna Minis: Ah, Books and Perfumes! Mme Bovary, excellent choice. She has her handkerchief drenched in patchouli… What do you think of “La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret”, by Zola? The heroine is dying together with flowers, Zola describes their smells beautifully. The end: “Elle ouvrait la bouche, cherchant le baiser qui devait l’étouffer, quand les jacinthes et les tubéreuses fumèrent, l’enveloppèrent d’un dernier soupir, si profond, qu’il couvrit le choeur des roses. Albine était morte dans le hoquet suprême des fleurs.” In many of my favorite books, perfumes and smells are mentioned, one could write a book on that subject. I like to think about perfumes for the heros and the heroines in my books. Which perfume could be good enough for Helen of Troy? Joy perhaps, or Nahéma, or the dangerous tuberose? The godess Artemis, what smell does she exhale? A pure and chaste one, or rather animalic (after all, she is Mistress of Animals), or a sharp smell of needles, like Fille en Aiguilles, or of the woods, like Yatagan? What could be the perfume for Desdemona? and so on, and so on. My favorite author is Charles Dickens. I read him (in Dutch) already when I was about 9, and I still do. Out of respect for him (he didn’t like perfumes), I don’t perfume his characters. With one single exception: mister Mantalini. He smells of Violettes de Parme! June 9, 2012 at 7:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the way you connect scents and stories. I haven’t reached for La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret for such a long time, but you’ve inspired me to get a new copy. I love Zola. June 9, 2012 at 8:38am Reply

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