BERLIN — Cinema in surround scent has arrived. Le Cinéma Olfactif, a screening series launched at Berlin’s Soho House, aims to enhance artistic filmmaking with the addition of visionary fragrance. The debut screenings presented Mark Buxton’s scent track for Michel Gondry’s “Mood Indigo;” a perfume of the same name went on sale May 15 in select stores.
Le Cinéma Olfactif comes from Kaya Sorhaindo, formerly of Six Scents Parfums. It’s part of his new Berlin- and Paris-based fragrance brand, Folie à Plusieurs, which plans its first major release in September, a scent and artwork collaboration with photographer David LaChapelle.
“What I did with Six Scents was more product driven, whereas what I’m doing now is more experience driven, the process is really the product,” says Sorhaindo. “I’m hoping that through this experience people will be able to connect with the film in a different way, see different things, tap into different emotions.”
Flowers play a key role in Michel Gondry’s 2013 retro-futurist romance, which is based on Boris Vian’s somewhat surrealist 1947 novel “L’écume Des Jours.” In the story, protagonist Colin’s (Romain Duris) beloved wife Chloé (played by Audrey Tatou) becomes ill with a water lily in her lung; part of her treatment requires that she be surrounded by, and even covered with, the freshest of blooms.
But it was the jazz-tinged vibe of the film, called “Mood Indigo” in English, that resonated with Mark Buxton, a music lover who named several scents in his namesake perfume line after iconic songs. Along with lily and freesia, he used top notes of red pepper and chamomile to evoke the madcap start of the film, and its blossoming romance. As the story takes a somber turn, so does its scented soundtrack. “For me – jazz is smoky, it’s incense, it’s a bit mystical, it’s dark, and the film becomes very dark at the end,“ he explained.
A scent diffusion unit created by Scentys Paris was used to release Buxton’s fragrance into the Soho House’s small cinema according to tone and plot of the film for the screenings, which had their debut in April. Presentation will require some fine-tuning; some viewers were perfectly perfumed, while others sniffed the air in vain. But cinemagoers were pleased with their parting gift — 10ml of Mood Indigo edp, along with a Limoges porcelain diffuser strip.
Independent perfumer Buxton was earlier this year tasked with a different kind of film fragrance – L’air de Panache, the on-screen signature scent of Monsieur Gustave, the ultimate dandy at the center of Wes Anderson’s latest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” L’air de Panache was fleeting — limited to 1,000 bottles, the product was not sold, and is solely to be sniffed at Nose perfumery in Paris, where Buxton is a co-founder.
Le Cinéma Olfactif’s scents will be bit easier to access. A boxed 10-ml fragrance and diffuser set are released for purchase 30 days after each screening. Select perfumeries and concept stores including Breathe Cosmetics in Berlin, Colette and Nose in Paris, LuckyScent in Los Angeles, Assin in Melbourne and Sydney, and Isetan in Tokyo, will sell the scents, as will the Folie à Plusieurs website. The set is priced at 74.95 euros, or about $104.
In June, Le Cinéma Olfactif returns to the screening room with Japanese director Sion Sono’s controversial “Love Exposure,” on a double bill with Buxton, who will now be the project’s exclusive perfumer. The series expands to Soho House London in September, and in December, will have a special presentation at Art Basel Miami.
Buxton, who was given free creative reign for his scent, thinks synesthetic cinema could be a growing trend. “I think Kaya’s on to something here. It hasn’t really been done before. We’ve had some tries – like when you had a little kit in front of you, and then where there were certain scenes in the film then you had to rub something and then you could smell — ‘now it smells like bread, because there’s bread in the film.’ But this is like giving the global picture of the movie,” he said. He’s already named his dream cineaste to scent – “I’d love a wicked fragrance for Tarantino!”