Amour Amour Parfum Cologne (Jean Patou)

The old cinematic fallback known as the "meet cute" is a rock-solid method of launching two contentious characters on the fast track to romance. At face value, it doesn't look hopeful: They hate each other! All they do is argue! This is never going to work! But eventually meaningful glances are exchanged, tart turns to tender, and Cupid's ambition is achieved.

If you're like me, you prefer the contest of love before it turns its competitors all mushy from mutual bliss. I especially prefer the "before" to the "after" where the heroine is concerned. A girl who sparkles with intelligent scorn and articulates a stinging wit fills me with delight-- but only humiliation earns her the right to be seen through soft-focus. She must be brought to heel. Romance deprives her of both personality and voice, and all the audience can say is Aaaaaawwwww!

Me, I sit scowling and sucking my teeth. I've seen this flick before.

Composed in 1927 by Henri Alméras for Jean Patou, Amour Amour (at least the 'Parfum Cologne' version that I picked up on an antique-store sortie) opens with a salvo of sass and backtalk. Fresh lemon, zesty green bergamot... zing! Even when a touch of wild strawberry peeks in, it's just barely sweet enough to alkalize that concentration of acid. At this moment, I admire Amour Amour not despite but because of its sharpness. It's L'Interdit before finishing school-- "all elbows" as it were, and more likable for NOT being a lady.

But then it happens.

If Amour Amour were an adolescent girl, she'd just now be entering that stage of brutal self-consciousness which descends the instant that boys start to matter. Craving appraisal, fearing judgement, she suddenly halts in her tracks; that voice, once so assertive, goes silent. A furious, embarrassed blush lights up her cheeks; you can almost hear her inwardly berating herself for being so loud, so forward. When will I ever learn? she thinks. Behind a veil of temperate floral notes, she ruthlessly composes herself to emerge mute and perfect, the paragon of feminine charm.

Now she is a woman... and I miss her already.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, neroli, lemon, strawberry, carnation, lily, lilac, iris, narcissus, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, heliotrope, vetiver, honey, civet, musk