New Perfume Review Ormonde Jayne Rose Gold- A Rose of Two Worlds

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One of my favorite things to observe is the effect a creative director has on a perfumer. This is particularly evident when the perfumer is given the opportunity to have released other perfumes where they have been the sole creative force. It has been my hypothesis that clear-eyed creative directors can push talented perfumers to new heights. When I am having this conversation one of my favorite examples is the work perfumer Geza Schoen has done for Ormonde Jayne owner and creative director Linda Pilkington.

linda pilkington

Linda Pilkington

Hr. Schoen when left to his own devices he tends to design austere architectures. When Ms. Pilkington is collaborating the same precision is evident but Hr. Schoen creates in an almost gaudy way compared to his other solo perfumes. Two years ago with Black Gold Ms. Pilkington showed even using a pared down ingredient list Hr. Schoen could create this kind of opulence. I think Black Gold is one of the best in the entire brand. I admire it so much I was a little nervous in trying the new sequel Rose Gold.

If Black Gold was five exquisite ingredients; Rose Gold is three keynotes in top, heart, and base enhanced by a suite of supporting actors. It makes Rose Gold a perfume of three distinct phases.

geza-schoen

Geza Schoen

Hr. Schoen opens with a tart lime matched with clary sage. I love the assertive verdancy of clary sage. By using the lime as a citrus focal point it allows the clary sage to act as a rambunctious partner. For all that I am making it sound discordant it is anything but. It is an herbal citrus top accord which finds a heady harmony. The star of the heart is a Taif rose. This variation of Rose Damascena has a softer heart of spiciness to it. Because of that quieter quality Hr. Schoen adds in two other florals as support. Carnation is the bridge to the sage in the top with its green rose nature. Jasmine is the bridge to the oud in the base adding in its indolic charm. At the center of this the Taif rose glows like a golden tinted floral. Over a few hours oud and sandalwood insert themselves into the floral intensity. The oud particularly feels like a natural progression from the jasmine. The sandalwood provides an attar-like foundation. Much later the botanical musk of ambrette adds the final note.

Rose Gold has nearly 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

Rose Gold feels like a throwback rose encompassing Arabic and European influences. It is so well constructed that it took me well into my second wearing for that particular bell to go off in my head. This rose of two worlds makes the perfect counterpart to Black Gold where that one whispered in sensuous tones; Rose Gold enfolds you in its luxury. The best part is I never want to get out.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Love-in-a-Mist- Finding the Sunny Side

Social media is a wonderful thing when sharing good news. It can be less enjoyable when the news is not so happy. When you see a post where someone has had some kind of adversity you feel for them and reach out knowing there is little more you can do. A year ago I woke up and was checking in when I saw a post from Charna Ethier the independent perfumer and owner of Providence Perfume Co. Her store in Providence, RI had been damaged in a fire. After being patient with the reconstruction it turned out she still needed to move. She spent a couple of months doing that. She has now re-established her brick-and mortar presence which has allowed for her to return to that which she does so well; design beautiful perfumes from memorable ingredients. Her latest Love-in-a-Mist does just that.

When I make the statement that independent perfumery’s advantage is in exquisite small batch raw materials Ms. Ethier is one of the best at doing this. From designing her own tinctures to sourcing unique materials to use as a keynote the majority of her perfumes have a special note or accord within; put there through her persistence. For Love-in-a-Mist Ms.Ethier wanted to create a playful summer wildflower fragrance and she wanted to use the flower that is in the name. That flower is known as Nigella damascene. Ms. Ethier sourced one of the few distillers of this flower and made this note the nucleus of Love-in-a-Mist. Another thing I laud Ms. Ethier for is she spends time understanding her new material so she can choose just a few supplementary notes which display it like the fragrant jewel it is.

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Charna Ethier

Ms. Ethier describes the scent profile of Nigella damascene as a “honeyed floral aroma”. While I think that is probably technically true there seems to be more on display than a honeyed floral. As pink pepper opens the fragrance with the Nigella damascene already in place I get a more lilac feel from it. As mimosa comes forward it becomes more expansive reminding me strongly of honeysuckle. Sweet clover adds in the soft green aspect of a summer field. Finally, in the base sandalwood pulls out an ambery character.

Love-in-a-Mist has 8-10 hour longevity and low sillage.  

I have truly enjoyed wearing Love-in-a-Mist through these summery days. Even in a place where I have my own wildflowers there is nothing which smells as good as this does. After a year of adversity Ms. Ethier has found the sunny side again and put it in a bottle. I have to also mention that the past year’s travails seem to have fired her creativity again. I think Love-in-a-Mist is the best perfume she has made since 2012’s Moss Gown. Love-in-a-Mist is a spectacular summertime floral.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I was talking about the literary genre of cyberpunk recently. Speaking of how visionary it was for what eventually came to pass. When I read Neuromancer by William Gibson in 1984 I expected that this would become one of the most populated shelves in my library. It hasn’t turned out to be the case because I think to write well within this it takes more than writing skills. Nearly all of the best cyberpunk authors are polymaths with ever expanding interests across numerous fields. The best example of this is author Neal Stephenson. In the summer of 1992 when I read his book Snow Crash I realized this was someone who had a visionary perspective. Over the years since that has only been confirmed with each new book he writes. Snow Crash is where it started.

Snowcrash

The story is set in near-future Los Angeles which is no longer part of the United States. The country has been divided into corporate, criminal or entrepreneurial ownership of the major cities and areas. At the beginning of the book we meet Hiro Protagonist who is a pizza delivery boy for the Mafia. Hiro loses his job early on. He pairs up with his new friend Y.T. to mine the virtual reality Metaverse for intelligence and sell it to those interested in the information. During this they discover there is a virus out in the Metaverse called Snow Crash which goes beyond infecting your online avatar it also affects the real-life person behind it. The search for who is behind Snow Crash is what drives the book over the rest of the narrative.

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Neal Stephenson

What is great about Mr. Stepehnson is his ability to combine a futuristic plot and layer it with heavy bands of ancient Sumerian. The language and the mythology of that past civilization are critical pieces to the ultimate resolution of the plot in Snow Crash. This might sound a little silly as I describe it. Within Mr. Stephenson’s written world, it is presented in an entirely engaging manner. It drew me in enough that I would spend some time in the library reading more about ancient Sumeria. In every novel since Snow Crash Mr. Stephenson has found a way to continue this combination of the historical with the future.

Over the past twenty-four years and eight successive novels Mr. Stephenson has provided one of the most interesting voices in all of literature, not just cyberpunk. If you have never experienced his writing Snow Crash is the best place to begin.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy- Out of Control Gourmand

If you’re ever interested in doing a bit of Pop Culture Archaeology the perfume discount bins can be a good digging spot. Just by casting your eyes over all of the celebrity fragrances within you can tell whose star is descending straight to the discounter. Despite the barometer of popularity, the great majority of these perfumes with a once hot personalities’ name on the box are almost all terrible. From a discerning point of view, the number of noteworthy celebrity fragrances is quite small compared to the hundreds which have been produced. Which means the ones that have sunk to the discount bin which are good should be pointed out. That’s what I’m doing this month with Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy.

britney spears midnight fantasy

From 1998 to 2004 Britney Spears was one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Her debut single “…Baby, One More Time” is one of the biggest selling songs of all-time with over 10 million copies sold. As Ms. Spears built on that success releasing three more albums through 2003 she did what has become standard issue for a pop star; she branched out into fragrance. The problem became her first fragrance Curious was released just as Ms. Spears life began to become a very public train wreck in 2004. Despite the infamy it sold well and there were yearly releases which continue right up until today with the release of the nineteenth fragrance in the brand named Private Show.

Caroline Sabas

Caroline Sabas

Midnight Fantasy was the fourth Britney Spears release, in 2007, and was a flanker to 2005’s Fantasy. Perfumer Caroline Sabas was asked to create a more gourmand-style fragrance. The original Fantasy by perfumer James Krivda is a textbook example of why so many celebrity perfumes fail. It had a distinct lack of focus as it veered all over the place. The most interesting thing about it was this “cupcake accord”. Based on what Mme Sabas was asked to do with Midnight Fantasy I am guessing their focus groups also shared my opinion. What she did was go very big and very gourmand.

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Britney Spears in 2016

Midnight Fantasy uses the linchpin of every early 2000’s gourmand as its focal point, ethyl maltol. Most of the time the perfumers spend their time trying to rein it in. Mme Sabas lets it spin madly out of control as she wraps it in sugary fruity notes of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, some tropical fruits, and plum. These fruits are swirled into the cotton candy sweetness of ethyl maltol to give an incredibly satisfying candied fruit accord. It has a very provocative attitude of asking you to take it on its own terms or to walk away. There is a fleeting amount of iris and vanilla floating around later on but it is this olfactory package of Five Flavors Life Savers which is what you remember.

Midnight Fantasy has 6-8 hour longevity and above average sillage.

With the current trend of trying to appeal to Millennials with these lightly sugared floral gourmands I would love to see what that generation would think about Midnight Fantasy’s nuclear gourmand. I know I like it because of the intensity. If you’re doing some prospecting in the discount bins and you like gourmands Midnight Fantasy is worth a look.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Oriza L. Legrand Villa Lympia- Beach of the 1970’s

The heritage brand Oriza L. Legrand has done a pretty good job of recreating some early 20th century recipes nearly one hundred years later. The creative team of Franck Belaiche and Hugo Lambert have resurrected this brand by understanding the history of perfume from that time while allowing for modern tastes. The original collection of ten, released in 2014, carried their vintage pedigree beautifully.

It was with some surprise that I received my press release for the latest release Villa Lympia. It spoke of casting “an air of summer over the Riviera for the first swims of the season.” It also carried packaging with a woman in an old-fashioned bathing costume. The whole aquatic/beach style of perfume didn’t come into being until the late 1980’s. This meant Messrs Belaiche and Lambert weren’t working off of a previous recipe. As soon as I sniffed Villa Lympia I realized we had taken a detour. This is a member of the category of beachy perfumes. It is done in a way that felt very 1970’s to me.

Hugo Lambert and Franck Belaiche

Hugo Lambert (l.) and Franck Belaiche

The 1970’s were a very plastic time. It seemed anything that could be extruded from polymers was turned into a product. The first moments I smelled Villa Lympia the top notes created that very scent of fresh plastic. It does evolve into a more traditional marine perfume but at first it felt like I had to peel the cellophane off of it.

Villa Lympia opens with that plastic accord. I am guessing it is composed of some of the traditional ozonic and aldehydic components usually employed to produce a sea spray effect. This time it goes sideways into this cellophane wrapping. After nearly an hour the plastic eventually does blow away leaving the mineralic smell of hot sand which is sweetened a bit by immortelle. It eventually ends on a desiccated woody accord meant to evoke driftwood.

Villa Lympia has 8-10 hour longevity and has moderate sillage.

If you have enjoyed the previous Oriza L. Legrand fragrances for their ability to reclaim the past Villa Lympia will be unlikely to impress you. On the other hand if you take it as a member of the “day at the beach” style of perfumes Villa Lympia does that really nicely. I actually found the cellophane accord worked as a functional way to sort of mentally unwrap the perfume on the days I wore it. I was happy to jump ahead fifty years to the 1970’s and spend a day at the plastic beach.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Oriza L. Legrand.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Aventus for Her- A Creed Fruity Floral

When it comes to the ultra-luxe perfume brands there is none which wears its history more patently than Creed. I would have said that history got a little bit in the way as we moved into the new century. The perfumes seemed to be too obviously looking to the past for inspiration. By the time 2010 rolled around I was wondering where the brand was headed. I received a preview sample of Aventus which immediately caught my attention. Olivier Creed had developed a masculine fruity floral using apple and pineapple in the opening. I consider the top accord of Aventus one of the most innovative choices made for a perfume meant for men. I remember wondering if this was going to do well with that desired demographic. Six years later Aventus is the best-selling perfume in the entire Creed line of perfumes. It has become a legendary perfume for guys who will tell you about its ability to charm women who smell it on them. I think it tells a woman this is a man who isn’t afraid to stand out because Aventus stands out among fragrances marketed to men.

Now Creed has decided it is time to give Aventus a feminine counterpart, Aventus for Her. The original fragrance was an homage to Napoleon Bonaparte. I expected Aventus for Her to be Josephine. In the press release it is meant to be more generic than that as it “is inspired by some of history’s most powerful women-royalty, artists, writers, and visionaries-whilst heralding the strong, modern woman of today.” It is that desire to encompass many instead of one which probably doesn’t provide an advantage for Aventus for Her . A strong primary focal point might have been a better choice. Because of this Aventus for Her is not as innovative as Aventus while still being quite charming.

Olivier_CREED

Olivier Creed

M. Creed chooses to repeat the apple he used in Aventus for this distaff version. It is surrounded with the usual suspects of many fruity openings as pink pepper, cassis, lemon and red berries all form an accord that is familiar with only the apple adding something marginally different. It settles into a beautifully composed floral accord in the heart as rose leads the way supported by ylang-ylang, lilac, and violet. The last two tint the rose ever so slightly purple. The base is sandalwood as the core around which M. Creed adds patchouli, styrax, and musk. It makes for a sweetly woody finish.

Aventus for Her has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not sure Creed did this perfume any favors with its name. The similarities are not so apparent. It is also lacking in the special qualities which makes Aventus stand out. My first impression was full of comparisons which really weren’t fair. Aventus for Her is a Creed fruity floral which trends feminine which I think is as good as many of the recent releases. This does not feel like Creed is looking to the past it does feel forward looking for the brand. On the days I wore this I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. If you temper your expectations I think you might also find Aventus for Her to be worth your while.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Creed.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Parfums DelRae Mythique- Veils of Leather & Iris

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One thing I want to accomplish with this series is to remind perfume lovers of brands they may have forgotten about or never even heard of. A prime example of this is Parfums DelRae. Overseen by DelRae Roth there are only nine perfumes in the entire line. The first five: Amoreuse, Bois de Paradis, Eau Illuminee, Debut, and Emotionelle were released between 2002 and 2008. All five were composed by Michel Roudnitska. I had entered my phase of discovery which included devouring all things Roudnitska when I found the brand. M. Roudnitska is a perfumer with presence. He translates his belief in the way perfume should be made into his creations. In Ms. Roth he found a kindred spirit equally devoted to doing things correctly. You need no other indicator that while niche was exploding they only released five perfumes.

DelRae Roth1

DelRae Roth

M. Roudnitska was going to take a break from perfumery in 2009 and so Ms. Roth was forced to look for a new perfumer. To her great credit she found one who had an entirely different style in Yann Vasnier. From 2009-2014 they have released four perfumes: Mythique, Coup de Foudre, Panache, and Wit. Taken as a sub collection these are some of the best perfumes ever created by M. Vasnier. I would again point to the uncompromising creative direction of Ms. Roth as a critical component in the quality. Again this was a slow and steady process while those around them were rushing to market with multiple releases per year.

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Yann Vasnier

My favorite perfume in a line which has nine very good to outstanding fragrances in it; is the first one M. Vasnier did, Mythique.  

Ms. Roth was inspired by the story of Diane de Poitiers who was the mistress to French King Henri II. Diane de Poitiers was known as an equestrienne, a great beauty and demanding intellect. She was famous for regularly dressing in only white and black. Ms. Roth took all of that and asked M. Vasnier to design an orris and leather centered fragrance which would encompass her inspiration. What M. Vasnier delivered in the end is what comes off as a veil of orris scented leather that is breathtaking in its seemingly fragile beauty.

delrae mythique

Mythique opens upon a flare of mandarin tinted green with a light application of vegetal ivy. This leads to a leather accord of ambrette and patchouli matched to a rich orris butter which has no powdery character. This orris butter is the rootiness of the rhizome on display. It pairs exquisitely with the leather accord to create that transparent effect that captures me every time I wear this. Sandalwood is the final ingredient in the base.

Mythique has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage. This is one of those deceptive perfumes where you might stop noticing it but others can still smell it on you.

With Mythique Ms. Roth and M. Vasnier were defining the second act of Parfums DelRae as M. Roudnitska exited stage left. Mythique is one of the first perfumes which drew me into how beautiful fragility could be.

If Parfums DelRae have flown Under the Radar for you that should be remedied by sampling all nine. It is one of the true great collection top to bottom in independent perfumery. Mythique is a great place to begin that exploration.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Project Renegades Part 2- Perfumed Supergroup (contd.)

Continuing my reviews of the three Project Renegades perfumes begun with yesterday’s post.

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Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour is one of my favorite perfumers because I feel like I can see his desire to use the ingredients on his palette in different ways. He is also the perfumer for whom I have probably given the most nicknames to from Pirate to High Priest of Incense I have always admired his way of designing perfumes. As I was thinking about his perfume he composed for Project Renegades I return to that focus of doing something different to achieve a desired effect. It turns him into The Experimentalist.

For his Project Renegades entry M. Duchaufour wanted to create a fresh marine fragrance without the usual suspects. It is particularly interesting because as Geza Schoen did with his Project Renegades fragrance M. Duchaufour uses an overdose of pink pepper in the top notes. Except this overdose gives a slightly different effect.

M. Duchaufour opens his perfume with 10% pink pepper. I am not sure how often I have smelled that concentration but at that level it effectively replaces that ozonic suite of notes which usually open this style of fragrance. At this kind of level the pink pepper has a surprisingly uplifting presence. I think I expected to get bowled over by it. Instead I was enticed into the cool pine forest as balsamic notes matched with cardamom, cassis, and juniper berries provide that accord. Once they become apparent it also brought to my attention the balsamic qualities inherent in the pink pepper at this concentration. This dries down into an amber and incense base which also carries a bit of desiccated driftwood to remind one we are on the beach.

Project Renegades Bertrand Duchaufour has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mark Buxton

Mark Buxton

Mark Buxton is a perfumer who lives in the specific moment of creativity of a perfume. I like that he gets a concept within his imagination and then executes upon that in a matter of days. It is perfumery as practiced by only those skilled enough to trust those impulses to take you to a good place. Over his career knowing when to leave the well-trodden path has served him well. For Project Renegades he wanted to throw the saddle off of his horse and ride off at breakneck speed just to see where these notes would take him. It makes his Perfume Renegades entry the most unusual of the three as only The Instinctualist could provide.

I use the horse analogy because Mr. Buxton combines a sharp green opening of basil and galbanum with a stinky animal accord. He told me at Esxence he wanted people to go “WTF!” when they first sniffed it. With me it definitely has that effect. It reminds me of when my dog comes in from a summer rain shower after the grass is mowed and he has rolled around in it. It is weird and that quality is not relieved as we move deeper in to the development. A spicy rose is enhanced with black pepper, red pepper and clove but the stinky animal accord pushes right up against the rose corrupting it. All of this gives way to a very warm base accord of sandalwood and amber.

Project Renegades Mark Buxton has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have had a great deal of fun with these Project Renegades perfumes. Each of them feels characteristic of the perfumer behind them. I also returned often to my analogy of a music supergroup in perfumed form. When that concept succeeds it is because the musicians are tasked with taking on different tasks than they usually do. Project Renegades saw these three perfumers take the opportunity to let The Scientist, The Experimentalist and The Instinctualist take on fragrance construction in a different way helping to illuminate what independent perfumery is all about.

Disclosure: This review is based upon samples from Project Renegades I received at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Project Renegades Part 1- Perfumed Supergroup

When I was at Esxence 2013 there was an exciting announcement which was made. Three of the best perfumers were going to combine their talents and release three perfumes under their own brand. This joint effort of Geza Schoen, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Mark Buxton was one of the topics of discussion for the remainder of the expo that year.

My thoughts on it were it reminded me of the rock music supergroup where a few successful musicians would combine to do something different. Cream was the first of these supergroups in 1965. The one which most probably remember as it was a product of the MTV video years was The Traveling Wilburys which included Roy Orbison, Georege Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne. I could also be said that in operatic music The Three Tenors of Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras were also a supergroup. What makes these endeavors successful is each of the musicians finds their spot within the whole. The perfume supergroup, dubbed Project Renegades, succeeds because the three perfumers also managed to find a way for their individuality to stand out while forming a cohesive collection of three perfumes.

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Geza Schoen

Over the next two days I am going to review all three of the releases. I start with Geza Schoen’s Entry.

When I approached the booth at Esxence 2016 the first question on my lips was, “What took you so long?” One answer was the bottles which have a three dimensional head of each perfumer which was designed from laser scans of their faces. This turned out to be especially challenging when it came to production. Even without the logistical headaches of the bottle Project Renegades still would have taken over a year because Hr. Schoen told me that was how long he worked on his perfume. It is not surprising to me because as a fellow chemist he applies his scientific training as he analyzes his raw materials. For Project Renegades he wanted to work with a version of pink pepper known as Schinus Molle. He told me he spent weeks just understanding all of the facets of this raw material. He used two extractions an essential oil and a CO2 extraction. Then he loads up the early moments with the schinus molle in overdose. This is the soul of The Scientist at work.

Hr. Schoen opens his fragrance with the two versions of schinus molle. The CO2 extraction has a bit of a cassis effect which he accentuates by adding a little bit of cassis with the tart citrus notes of lemon and lime. Hr. Schoen wanted an unusual top accord and he achieves it. By going for intense layering of the schinus molle and the cassis it jumps out at you. I liked the effect but it is going to make some step back away from it. If you can hang on the heart offers an orris-based accord matched with the expansiveness of hedione and the depth of osmanthus absolute. If the top notes are a bit confrontational the heart notes are there to settle the nerves. The base notes are a balsamic mixture of woods bolstered by Iso E Super and some animalic notes. This returns to being a little less easygoing as the castoreum provides a bit of a snarl at the end.

Project Renegades Geza Schoen has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll be back tomorrow with reviews of the perfumes by M. Duchaufour and Mr. Buxton plus some closing thoughts on the entire Project Renegades.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Project Renegades at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Suspense v. Surprise

Last year I saw the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut. In that movie 30-year old Francois Truffaut interviewed 63-year old Alfred Hitchcock in 1962. If you love movies on the making of film it is a must-see. What stuck with me from the moment I saw the film was the response Mr. Hitchcock gave when asked by M. Truffaut on what differentiated surprise over suspense. It made me think of moviemaking differently. I was very strongly reminded of this quote after the opening 20-minutes of the season 6 finale of Game of Thrones. Here is the quote:

Hitchcock-Truffaut

Francois Truffaut (l.) and Alfred Hitchcock

“There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean.

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!"

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.”

From the moment I heard this from Mr. Hitchcock’s mouth I knew it explained my fascination with suspense on the screen. I am a gigantic fan of Quentin Tarantino and he is perhaps the modern-day “Master of Suspense”. In nearly all of his movies the audience has more information than the characters. When they enter into conflict the suspense ratchets up.

Hans_Landa

Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa in "Inglorious Basterds"

Most of Mr. Tarantino’s movies have this happen later in to the movie and I am not one to spoil the plot. Thankfully one of the best examples comes from the beginning of the 2009 movie “Inglorious Basterds”. The first 15-minutes of the film introduce us to SS officer Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, as he interviews a French farmer on the whereabouts of a Jewish family who also lived nearby. The first eight-minutes or so seems like typical questioning as Herr Landa sets up his eventual end game. At the ten-minute mark the camera tracks downward through the floorboards and we see the family being discussed above hiding in abject terror. As the camera tracks back upward the scene has transformed into a long suspenseful beat as we in the audience want the family to run away before they are discovered. “Inglorious Basterds” is really a masterclass in setting up suspenseful situations which we as the audience are deeply drawn in to. There are five other set pieces leading up to the final act each of them different riffs on suspense.

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Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in "Game of Thrones"

Suspense has always been a part of the big screen experience, it is much harder to maintain on television because of those pesky commercials. Except last week’s season six finale of Game of Thrones spent the first 20-minutes in a suspenseful set piece which might just be the best twenty minutes of this show, ever. Episode director Miguel Sapochnik shows our main players getting ready for a pivotal trial to come. We watch them dress and prepare with pleasure or dread of what is to come. One aspect of building suspense can be the music. In this particular case Ramin Djawadi uses a suite of piano, strings, organ and choir to slowly give the audience an audible clue something is amiss. As Mr. Sapochnik shoots the scene we begin to see what is happening behind the scenes of the trial. We as audience know something is wrong and then we are shown what that is. The final five minutes is that moment, again, where we as audience are yelling at the screen for them to move. Of course, they don’t.

These two scenes are fantastic examples of using suspense to introduce the villain in the case of “Inglorious Basterds” or to payoff years of watching these characters place themselves in the spots they are in when the suspense is released as in “Game of Thrones”.

As soon as I finished watching the episode I was immediately reminded of Mr. Hitchcock’s words to M. Truffaut. They will always allow me to watch movies differently, bless them for doing that.

Mark Behnke