Giulietta (Tocca)

New York-based fashion line Tocca draws inspiration from all things Italian, from Roman high life to Mediterranean seaside spas. In 2009 came Giuletta, a fragrance "inspired by the love story of Italian director Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina... (and) their holidays spent on the island of Corsica."

If you've never heard of Masina, or Fellini for that matter, you're a tabula rasa: lucky you. You're free-- first, to allow the above breezy ad copy to stir up visions of shallow Euro-celebs enjoying palazzo luxury; next, to enjoy the fragrance of their lazy excess yourself. It smells like an appletini-- you love appletinis! (Do shallow Euro-celebs drink appletinis? Why, they must!) Liberated from the shackles of previous associations, you can simply like Tocca's Giulietta without having to analyze why.

But if you've ever seen the real Giulietta -- Fellini's Giulietta -- you may find yourself hitting a wall.

True, five decades of creative (and romantic) partnership between two complex artists cannot be conveyed in a single paragraph printed in six-point typeface. As for the perfume attached to the text, what does it tell us about the true identity of the muse which inspired it? "Half the story" seems the best it can manage. It's hard to be Masina's fan unless you've got a taste for jolie laide-- that awkward, charming, irresistible homeliness that appeals to us in spite of how we define beauty. Tocca Giulietta has got Masina's light-heartedness down to a T. But it does not capture her -- forgive me -- irregularity, her quirk, which is what I love more.

So long as I divorce every thought of La Strada's tragicomic Gelsomina from my mind, it's easy to embrace this sweet-tart cutie that projects all the sophistication of a lollipop and sparkles like a bottle of newly-opened seltzer. Notes of sour green apple dance amid a predictable corps de ballet of flowers, occasionally lifted high with big smiles on their faces, only to drop once more back into the glittering fray. What Giulietta lacks in depth and melancholy and pathos, it makes up for in ta-ra-ra-boom-di-ay, so I've ended up liking it in spite of myself. On the other hand, I've also had to take extra headache medication each time I've worn it, so I suspect I can only pursue its hidden truths so far.

Can a person's soul ever adequately translate to another medium? I believe it can, with the help of the right facilitator. With her husband's aid, Giulietta Masina committed her one-of-a-kind anima to celluloid in film after film. Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, Juliet of the Spirits -- all bore the mark of her deep, playful, turbulent and nonpareil self. Can that self be summed up in a perfume? Sure. I just never expected it would be a pedestrian fruity floral.

Taken on its own, Tocca's Giulietta is, as they say, "a bit of all right". But Fellini's Giulietta might have striven for something better.

Scent Elements: Ylang-ylang, green apple, pink tulip, rose, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley, iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, cedar, musk, sandalwood, amber