My review of “A Clockwork Orange Blossom,” the new masculine by the Kubrick Foundation.

I’m sure your hopes for this scent were as high as mine, with listed notes of neroli, saffron, bergamot, tobacco leaf, gorse, rose, oakmoss, labdanum, cinnamon, iris, and leather, but I’m sorry to have to report that it’s just a typical citrus/woody “sport” kind of scent that you’ve probably smelled a million times before. Don’t expect to smell more than the slightest hint of anything else here! I wouldn’t even suggest paying $2 for a sample, as it is that banal. Now for some reality to return here; there is no such scent, but I decided to use the title of this particular film for a reason, which will become clear below.

On a recent thread at Basenotes.net there. a member wanted to know if a particular formulation of Van Cleef and Arpels Pour Homme was “all about roses.” This is a difficult question because if a person is sensitive to rose (or particular molecules, at least) at that particular time it may really “spike out” but for others it may just come across as part of a mild floral quality. The thread eventually developed into responses that involved an overall assessment of the scent. I pointed out that I had sampled it a while back and found it to likely be an inadequate reformulation (I haven’t sampled the original from 1979), with strong lavender and modern musks, but a lack of richness, complexity, depth, and naturalness, similar but even worse than the reformulated Oscar Pour Lui, IMO.

Someone (perhaps a “fan boy”) told me I should “bow out” of the thread because I was too sensitive to the musks. In response, I pointed out that others might be sensitive to those musks too, and so my point might really help them, especially if they have read many of my reviews and have a sense of my preferences. Moreover, as I also pointed out, I enjoyed vintage formulations at that time that others have compared to vintage VC&A PH (Leonard Pour Homme and Oscar Pour Lui). I concluded by saying that I thought anyone who enjoys the vintage formulations may be disappointed by this formulation of it (it comes in a black box with brown leaf patterns). And of course t here is no way I can know for sure if I was actually more sensitive; it’s possible that if I tried this formulation today I would find it even worse than I did back then (perhaps two years ago, if not longer).

And this leads me to the allusion to film. Just as with scents, one person cannot tell another person that he should or should not have enjoyed watching a particular movie. I think nearly everyone would agree with that point. However, some people seem to think that it is reasonable to tell others how they should perceive a particular scent. What’s worse, if he or she disagrees, the person feels it is fine to tell others that they should not share their opinions unless it agrees with his or hers! There’s another issue with films that can help illustrate some odd things I have encountered among those who write about scents online, which is that some people think they can create standards (perhaps never disclosing them!) and then call another person wrong when he or she writes a comment that is inconsistent with those standards. Let me be clear here: that is outright absurd. You cannot criticize others because their opinions are based upon different standards (though of course you can state that you don’t understand or appreciate their standards).

For example, if you want to believe that everything Luca Turin has said about scent is 100% accurate, and you disclose that to your readers, that is fine. You may have few readers (unless you are LT himself), but this is not unacceptable. However, if you tell everyone else that they should only wear scents that LT has bestowed lavish praise upon, that is ridiculous. I’ve talked about this before, in the context of whether one needs to experience top notes fully, but here I want to cast the net more broadly, so to speak. If you read movie reviews, you’ll likely notice that reviewers can have different standards (though I’ve never read a critic disclose his or her criteria explicitly). Some favor movies with creative audio/visual patterns, for example, while others favor a less cinematic, but more humanistic approach.

“A Clockwork Orange” seems to attempt both, and is held in high regard by most critics, it appears. By contrast, I find it strained and unrealistic, particularly in the rendering of a possible future society. Now we can argue for the rest of our lives about how realistic that imaginary society is, but that will likely lead nowhere. We can also argue about how compelling the audio/visual elements are, or any number of things. However, if a person does find that society unrealistic and also feels that the audio/visual patters come across as forced and flamboyant, you should expect that person to render a negative review of that movie. You can’t tell the person that the audio/visual patterns and social elements are not important, because you believe that a movie should be judged by how good the acting is, for example.

And it may be that at a point in your life, you find audio/visual patterns to be by far the most compelling thing about “serious” film, but a decade or two later you are much more interested in the humanistic elements. Your review of a film may then change considerably, but at least you’ll know why. This is not the case with scents, because you can’t know for sure you are experiencing it exactly the same way you did a few years earlier, even if you still have at least a sample of it. Some may think that their perceptions of scents never changes, and if so that is a “dealbreaker” situation, and you then may want to refrain from reading this blog! The reason is that I’ve found my experiences with scents to be quite polymorphous, to the point that I have no idea if particular notes or accords will “spike out” on any particular wearing. All I can do here is to disclose my criteria and describe my experiences. If someone thinks he or she can do considerably more, I look forward to reading exactly what you are doing and experiencing.

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11 Comments

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

11 responses to “My review of “A Clockwork Orange Blossom,” the new masculine by the Kubrick Foundation.

  1. A delightful post, Bigsly! Thanks so much for these insights on both perfume and film! I agree with you that there is something odd and insalubrious about the sort of “absolutism” wafting about the air circulating above some perfumistas’ heads. It seems to induce stultification and is definitely contagious, ’cause some of them surely caught it from reading The Holey[sic] Book!

    Anyway, thanks also for letting me know that Van Cleef & Arpels has been reformulating their perfumes. I was not aware. Of course my bottle of First will probably suffice for this lifetime, but it’s good to know. I also have what I believe to be an older bottle of Van Cleef, which is an excellent perfume (or was!). The Collection Extraordinaire is pretty new, and those perfumes are well made, but they are also rather expensive–having been launched as “niche” rather than mainstream.

    A Clockwork Orange is certainly a brilliant and also an unforgettable film–I still retain unfortunate image associations between it and Beethoven’s Ninth symphony!

  2. heperd

    It is even more important to realize that your standards are so unique and personal that you cannot expect even one other person to experience fragrances they same way you do. That is the part that you seem unable to do.

    • I am confused by the hostility of this response. Let me step forward as one of the “rare” people who does share some perceptions with Bigsly. ( I seem to agree with him half the time and Bryan Ross of From Pyrgos the other half of the time–believe it or not!) But mostly I don’t understand people who take the time to visit blogs and “report” to the authors that their views are worthless. It makes no sense to me (and I dealt over several months with a persistent troll who repeatedly attacked me in a similar fashion at the salon de parfum). Constructive criticism is always wonderful, but wholesale denunciations of an author’s perspective as worthless? What is the point?

      My ultimate question to the author of the comment is this: Why would you take the time to read what you believe is devoid of any value? The world wide web is a very, very big place. In the words of the Alec Baldwin character in the film Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): “If you don’t like it, leave.”

      • The one thing that surprises me about comments like that one is that the author seems unaware of the primary reason for the existence of blogs, which is to allow a wide variety of opinions to be available to anyone who is interested in reading them. And in the case of scent, which is so incredibly “subjective,” I find it laughable that quite a few people think there is some sort of objective standard and that I am required to meet that standard when I write on my blog. Also, there was another comment (really nasty and one that I won’t publish) claiming that I am “losing readers” here when in fact I have been gaining them!

        Are these people teenagers? Seriously, this world of ours contains a huge number of people and disagreement about nearly everything exists, so please “grow up” and learn to enjoy life rather than lashing out at something someone says that makes you feel uncomfortable (since in this case one can’t “prove” that one’s views about scents are “correct”). Do you really want to live in some sort of “utopian” society where everyone agrees about everything? One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I usually learn more from those I disagree with, or think I do, because it compels me to reconsider my conceptions, and one’s conceptions are not 100% correct all the time!

    • That is factually not accurate, as I have more than a few “followers” and have been consulted on BN and Fragrantica by people who tell me they want my advice because they identify with my perceptions. Moreover, I am mostly writing this as a kind of personal diary. However, if others want to discuss their views, that’s fine with me, and it often leads to new insights. As I’ve said on more than on blog post, if you find my views to be unhelpful, please spend your time doing something that is, rather than worrying about what I have to say about scents !

  3. I know pointing out the obvious wont help so this is probably the last time I will try. That is, until I see something else that is so ridiculous that I am compelled to comment. Also, is there a sherapop blocker that I can download and install on my browser?

    • I just googled you, J McSweeney, and learned that you’re a realtor. Maybe you should stick to parcels and leave us to debate the intellectual fine points of fragrance? 😉

      • I decided not to delete that comment so that readers could see the type that I usually do not approve. I have no idea what the person is trying to communicate and there the appearance of a personal attack. It’s not quite nasty enough to be something that clearly requires deletion, but I will not approve such comments in the future. If you have something to say, be clear about what your point is and provide evidence to support your ideas. I welcome criticism, but if you can’t present a coherent argument then don’t expect nastiness to be approved. I apologize to Sherapop but I really wanted to approve of a comment that illustrated what I often encounter yet don’t approve.

      • No worries, Bigsly. I don’t usually post such comments. It was a made-to-measure response to J McSweeney’s remark, which I note that you did approve and allow to be posted though it contains no argument whatsoever and is clearly an attack directed to me! 😉

        Perhaps I have misunderstood. Are you referring to McSweeney’s remark or to mine? I suppose both, since neither contributes in a constructive way to the above post. In any event, I promise to behave in the future and apologize for deigning to respond to McSweeney.

  4. Sherapop: I actually didn’t approve of that comment but rather the settings were that if a person had an approved comment at one time then they would be approved for all future comments. That has now been changed, since this is clearly not a setting that works and I don’t think it’s possible to just set certain individuals’ comments on a required approval setting if they have had at least one comment approved. Unless something strange happens (to me) comments should be approved within 24 hours from now on, though most of the time it should only be several hours at most. And let me be clear here, I have nothing negative to say about your comments and I’m glad you have chosen to read this blog and contribute in an earnest way. Please continue to do so!

    I am seeking unique insights, not the common “dis ding stinks” sort of commentary one finds on the major scent sites, so you are the kind of reader/contributor who this blog is aimed at, and not people who have little interest in thinking about these olfactory concoctions. Once again, I apologize for what happened, but one thing I like to tell people is, “don’t try to silence people you disagree with, but rather give them plenty of time to discredit themselves.” In this case, that is what happened, and anyone who doesn’t see that plainly is not someone to spend much time pondering.

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