It's fitting that the experience of watching Nose, a new documentary about fragrance, is a sensory burst of serotonin. As the film and its subject, perfumer François Demachy, take pains to explain, fragrances are transportive. A scent can stoke the imagination and — if Demachy pulls the puppet strings correctly, which he always does — it brings the wearer along to a rose garden in France, to a road trip along the Italian riviera, or to a dark local bar where you're wearing your favorite dress. Watching the film, wearing the same sweatpants I've pulled on every morning for a week, made me want to spritz on perfume as if I were going out.
In a way, the film is named after Demachy, who holds the title of master perfumer (often called "the nose" in the industry) for Dior. He's the creator behind Dior Homme, Sauvage, Miss Dior, and more of the house's iconic scents. With a single sniff, Demachy's sensitive nose could identify countless ingredients, where they come from, and the distinct differences between each of them. It's a superpower in its own right, and he uses it to conceptualize fragrances from scratch and to locate the best possible ingredients for their creation.
Demachy is ostensibly the subject of the film, and we do learn some details about his work process and personal history. But the film's heart, much like Demachy's, is with the farmers and growers who produce the raw materials that he ingeniously spins into perfume. "It's important to see the perfume in its natural habitat," Demachy states early in the film. And so we do, while following him on his travels to patchouli fields in Indonesia, a bergamot harvest in Italy, rose farming in France, and ambergris hunting in Ireland. In a typical year, the vivid footage would be transportive; it would be the type of film that leaves you blinking for an extra moment as the credits roll. But after a year wherein most of the movie's viewers have been grounded in place, it's even more thrilling to watch as Demachy circles the globe in search of the world's best-smelling ingredients.
The film emphasizes the international coordination it takes to build a scent like Sauvage, and Demachy happily shares the credit with farmers and growers across the globe. "Showing the full circle of perfume creation was in fact the idea behind the film," he tells Allure. As he defines it, that full circle includes “the people who plant the raw material, the ones who harvest it, the ones who transform it, the one who mix it to create a composition, the ones who market it, sell it, up until the consumer who wears it and gives it a life. That is perfume creation, not just one person in a lab mixing scents."
In the film, grower Armelle Janody highlights the paradox of growing raw materials for fragrance, saying growers have "our feet in the mud and our heads in the clouds." I asked Demachy about that juxtaposition, and why it was important to him to show both sides of fragrance in the film. "Perfume embodies this idea of luxury and glamour, but it’s important to show that it starts with people in the fields, being at one with nature, respecting it to be able to take and enjoy a little of the beauty it gives us," he says. "Our heads are in the clouds because we work on something that is so abstract, not essential to life but crafted to make it better and to beautify our existence. And if that’s not Human Behavior 101, I don’t know what is."
Nose was produced by Arthur de Kersauson and Clément Beauvais, who had previously worked with the fashion house on short films. This time around, the duo created a 70-minute feature film that landed at Tribeca Film Festival and will be available to stream starting February 22 on Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Canal VOD.
We learn that Demachy was born and raised in Grasse, France, the fragrance capital of the world. There, the film explains, the sense of smell is given as much weight as vision or taste. Like a sommelier who was born and raised in Napa, Demachy has the instinctive nose of a perfumer. As he builds a fragrance, he juggles a mental recipe including between 15 and 50 ingredients. He can conceptualize the amalgamation of scents by memory; then, in a lab that's also in Grasse, he helps bring the perfume to life.
This process of scent creation isn't one we get to see often. In fact, as far as many fragrance brands are concerned, master perfumers work behind the scenes and in the shadows. Demachy's background and work with Dior have long been kept under the radar until now, so it was important to the filmmakers that they portray his process with the utmost accuracy. "Rather than being purely demonstrative, we wanted to give an intimate look at this world of fragrance and scent," filmmakers de Kersauson and Beauvais tell Allure. "As we were filming, we discovered that the human journey was the center of perfume-making for François. So the idea was to let the camera go on this journey and try to capture those moments in the most natural and honest way."
Instead of working overtime to needle information out of Demachy, de Kersauson and Beauvais created beautiful shots that evoke a feeling, just like fragrance. Watching kilos and kilos of roses pile up during a harvest, for example, you can practically smell the sweet scent from home.
You won't come away from the documentary with a perfumer's knowledge about how scent is created, but rather a deeper-held belief about the "mystery of perfume," as Demachy defines it. "We persist in trying to explain it, describe it and dissect it, but it is never completely defined," he says. "I believe that a scent is like love – you can't explain it."
Nose is available to stream starting February 22 from Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Canal VOD.
Source: Read Full Article