There is a special atmosphere on the Rive Gauche of Paris (pronounce it “Reeve Gosh”).
This is a fairly subtle alchemy between “the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie,” a particular Left Bank Parisian style that is more Saint-Laurent than bling, and a delicate scent of literature floating in the air around Saint-Germain-des-Près.
And it’s true. One can even smell the high style and intellectual spirit of this neighborhood. For instance, at Frédéric Malle’s shop at 37, Rue de Grenelle in the middle of smelling columns and transparent refrigeration cabinets, the “Editeur de Parfums,” as the founder calls himself, publishes the olfactory creations of selected “fragrance authors.’” The names of the perfumes are named like books with evocative titles, like “En passant” “Dans tes bras” or “Portrait of a Lady”.
Perfumes have indeed this mysterious ability to tell stories. What does a Parisian woman think of when she’s choosing a scent ? Maybe of the one who will smell it on her. Who knows ? In the wake of a fragrance, it’s the beginning of a novel that is written, or a movie with an actress very Rive Gauche, like Catherine Deneuve for example.
I can not help but think of Catherine Deneuve when I speak of perfumes, and of this advertisement for Chanel she played in:
« It’s not important that I’m Catherine Deneuve.
I know he loves me for what I’m deeply.
He gives me Chanel n°5
because I love to put in a special place,
behind my knee. »
When I was a kid , this advert used make me deeply puzzled. I kept asking myself : Why? Why behind the knee? What a haunting question for a little boy. Maybe Catherine Deneuve, when she did not play in movies, used to work as an acrobat in a circus, and was able to contort herself enough to stick her nose in the back of her legs. I do not know. This advertisement appeared then to be an unfathomable mystery.
Now, I realize that the relationship each person has with his or her fragrance is very intimate. And sometimes deserves to stay “in the closet”.
Especially when it comes to Catherine Deneuve.