Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robert Piguet Bandit

(an ad for Bandit perfume veiled, alluding to bondage and sadomasochism)

I was a Fracas lover, but now, I've discovered Bandit, its evil twin created by master perfumer, Germaine Cellier. If Fracas (1948) is a healthy glow of unabashed feminine beauty, like peaches-and-cream and candied sweets, adored by children and men alike (except by those who can't handle the indolic nature of jasmine), Bandit (1944) is S&M in a bottle or a villain in an old Western: a cold-hearted, calculated manipulator who knows not how to be genuinely warm but relies on pretenses to gain temporal affection. Apart from its fresh galbanum opening (galbanum being a Cellier favorite as evident in her generous use of it in Vent Vert (1947), Bandit is a very synthetic-smelling modern perfume, probably more so than any other classic perfume I could think of. The chemicallly derived scent of Agent Provocateur or Bulgari Black might come close: all leather Chypres with a particularly cool disposition. In Bandit, I don't smell much leather but more tar and petroleum which I've called "dirty baby oil" in the past (maybe I just don't like musks). The genius of Germaine Cellier is in capturing in its scent the blackened heart of one who needs to hide its tortured soul behind an air of nonchalance, and to steal to get what it wants because it can neither have--nor give--naturally and freely.

Bandit is a shapeshifter on me. I had never taken to the EDP (eau de parfum) and thought the last parfum sample I'd tested was too obnoxiously sharp, but then, I'd gotten hold of another parfum sample that was much fresher and milder, full of galbanum in the opening and such sweetness in the base that I'd forgotten my initial impression of it being a dirty baby oil scent. I thought I'd fallen in love with it, but then, as it dried down, it seemed to have a mildly sweet, heavy yet cold (or cool--lukewarm is most accurate) smell...a scary thought that it reminded me today of the awful smell of toxic waste while passing through certain parts of the city. How terrible is such an association? Now, I remember when someone had called Bandit "garbagey" on a forum once, and it makes sense to me. However, I just got raves on this scent on me, which further perplexes me. I'm sure this person doesn't perceive Bandit as smelling like garbage or toxic waste, any more than others besides me not finding an unwashed body (I'm talking Port Authority bus terminal at night here) smell in Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, or saliva in a Tom Ford creation.

I'm forever surprised and fascinated by the different perceptions people have of the same perfume. How is it that it can range so much, when we can all agree the smell of excrement is bad? Does a pained heart somehow crave bad smells to soothe its own psyche, or even learn to find them pleasurable?