The Sunday Magazine: Twin Peaks: The Return

Sixteen weeks ago on the eve of the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return in this column I said “it’s been twenty-five years; tell me a story”. Well after the 18-hours of this I have been told a story that has been more than I could’ve expected. I have been given so much story, along with spectacular visuals, I suspect it will take another twenty-five years for me to digest it all.

Back in 1990 when Twin Peaks premiered on ABC it was so unexpected for a broadcast network to show something like that. In 2017, with the niche television landscape Showtime could commit to 18-hours. This allowed creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to fully realize their visions. Mr. Lynch would direct every episode. It resulted in one of the greatest collection of a particular visualist’s aesthetic since Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. For a director to be given the opportunity to make an extended version of a movie over a number of segments must be a gift. Mr. Lynch took this largesse and displayed everything I admire about him. If you’ve been a long-time viewer of Mr. Lynch’s style every bit of it was here to one degree or another.

Michael Cera as Wally Brando

There were long pauses between dialogue verging on and passing uncomfortable. Commentary on how we are so used to word salad when it comes in haute cuisine we’re not sure what to do with it. There were moments of sweaty palmed tension released in a horrific climax. To the point that other moments ratcheted up tension that didn’t get released. The sound editing also done by Mr. Lynch carried by crackling electricity throughout was all about the energy running through the story. There were moments of wry commentary on our current way of life epitomized by Michael Cera who plays the son of Deputy Andy and Receptionist Lucy; Wally Brando. Mr. Cera gives a comedic performance where he channels the cadence of Marlon Brando as he comes to pay respect to his godfather, the local sheriff, in the dialogue of Luca Brazzi. It is four minutes of writing and performance gold.

The Three Faces of Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: The Return

Another component of all of this is the David Lynch Repertory Company was represented throughout. Many of the actors he has worked with in his movies joined original cast members. There are so many good acting performances I am only going to focus on one; that of Kyle MacLachlan. Mr. MacLachlan had to be the glue that held all of this together as he played three versions of characters who looked like him. He gave each of them distinct personality so just the way he delivered the line you could tell which character it was. Through his performance Mr. MacLachlan portrayed almost every imaginable human emotion through the entire series. I know Twin Peaks: The Return is going to be odd but if Mr. MacLachlan is not in the Best Actor Emmy race for a Limited Series then the Academy is full of idiots.

Edward Louis Severson III a.k.a. Eddie Vedder at The Roadhouse

The final part of what made Twin Peaks: The Return a joy for me was almost every episode ended with a musical performance in The Roadhouse. Some of my favorites like Chromatics, “the” Nine Inch Nails, The Cactus Blossoms and Lissie were already on my playlist. I added new bands Au Revoir Simone, Sharon van Etten, and The Veils. Just from a musical perspective it was a feast. The one single performance which made the top of my list over the entire series was Edward Louis Severson III’s “Out of Sand”. You might know the singer better by his stage name Eddie Vedder and this song was a perfect capstone to one of the pivotal episodes. Giving these musicians the opportunity to enter the Twin Peaks playground was another brilliant decision.

Take a Bow Mr. Lynch

I know I have a lot of readers who were frustrated by everything; I got a lot of e-mail about it. I know Episode 8 was the break point for many. That episode was done in the most surreal way where I think Mr. Lynch was equating the A-bomb was responsible for the release of evil in to the world. I’ve watched the episode six times now and It is jam packed with so many visual beats I am still seeing new things. I think everyone who returned for episode 9 was like me completely captured. There was almost the idea of Mr. Lynch laying down this barrier of if you can’t deal with this I still have ten more hours for you.

My opinion is Twin Peaks: The Return has incredibly duplicated what Twin Peaks did. It re-invented what you can aspire to on television. If it spawns half of what the original did it will be fabulous.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Vicky Tiel Ulysse- Found Treasure

My relationship with the perfume industry has evolved over the years. My desire to learn more has widened at the same pace my reach has. I don’t really look back to the early days of my perfume self-education wishing for a return engagement; except for one tiny part.

Those of you who live in the US know these perfume stores. They have kitschy punny names in a small storefront or kiosk. The boxes of perfume are stacked upon each other making you look behind each one hoping to find something worth digging out of the clutter. I always joked it was my version of walking the beach with a metal detector hoping to find gold. The successful perfume salvage missions are the ones I remember. There were more examples of finding something which turned out to be a bottle cap. This month’s Under the Radar choice, Vicky Tiel Ulysse, is one of those exhumed treasures which still shines today.

I was in a store in South Florida digging through the boxes hoping to find something. The owner was hovering nearby and he smelled good. It probably took an hour before I asked him what he was wearing. He pointed at a box which said Vicky Tiel Ulysse on it. When he told me how cheap it was ($15/100mL ~15 yrs ago) that sounded like a decent blind buy. Ulysse has turned out to be one of my evergreen bottles which I have replaced twice. It is a fresh style Oriental full of weird nuances and ingredients. Every time I wear it I am reminded how good it is. It is one of my fall stalwarts which means it is a good time to bring this on to peoples’ radar screens.

Vicky Tiel

Vicky Tiel was a cult fashion designer before that was really a thing. She would be the costume designer on Woody Allen’s “What’s New Pussycat?” in 1965. From there she would become part of the jet set hobnobbing with Liz and Dick, dancing at Maxim’s and making the scene what it was. Over time she would eventually start her own fashion line. Ms. Tiel is probably a designer whose name you are reading for the first time but if you’ve seen the movie “Pretty woman” the dress Julia Roberts’ character wears to the opera is a Vicky Tiel. Ms. Tiel’s memoir “It’s All About the Dress” covers a life painted in the splashiest of colors. This verve carries through to Ulysse.

Hugh Spencer

The perfumer she chose to work with on her early perfumes was also a free-spirit within the perfume world; Hugh Spencer. I would have enjoyed sitting in the room as Ulysse came to be. I have to think the phrase “It has to be bigger” was said a few times. I also think the phrase “make it fresh” was also tossed around. Together they did achieve the desired fresh Oriental.

Ulysse opens with the fresh part firmly in citrus territory as yuzu is the tart core. It is cleverly supported with linden and neroli adding in their floral nuanced lime and orange. It is fresh in a way I wish more perfumes would attempt. The floral quality becomes more pronounced with lavender becoming the dominant note. It is joined by cardamom and nutmeg keeping the herbal nature of lavender in the foreground. The Oriental base is formed from the classic components of patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, and musk. It is a sturdy version of this classic base which paired with the fresh and floral phases leading to it make the whole very good.

Ulysse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This has been one of my personal favorites from day one that I have owned it. It deserves to be on the radar screen.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jason Wu- How Sheer Can You Go?

When fashion designers I admire make the move to fragrance it is interesting to see how much of the runway aesthetic makes it to the perfume. Designer Jason Wu is the latest to make this leap. Mr. Wu has been a fashion wunderkind showing his first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2007 a year out of school. Two years later he would dress the new First Lady Michelle Obama and his career skyrocketed. If there is a phrase to describe Mr. Wu’s aesthetic it is understated sophistication. Except in nearly every collection there is a vibrant floral print among the other more solid colored offerings.

Jason Wu

For the perfume Mr. Wu collaborated with perfumer Frank Voelkl. To start Mr. Voelkl exposed Mr. Wu to the building blocks of scent. According to the press materials they went through 100’s of materials before Mr. Wu settled on the key note. Befitting the fashion style, he chose jasmine sambac to be the floral print part of the perfume. He also spoke of it because it reminded him of his youth where a neighbor’s wall was covered in jasmine. The final part of the Wu style was to keep the whole fragrance light. It is light. It is so light that it might be too sheer but in that transparency, there is a gauzy beauty I found enjoyable.

Frank Voelkl

Mr. Voelkl opens with a veil of baie rose and fig. These are especially good versions of these ingredients which are used in the lightest way possible. There can be a tendency to expect the phases of Jason Wu to pick up some volume but it stays very sheer. Which sometimes left me mentally chasing after this opening because I thought it was so nice. I cheated a bit and literally soaked a tissue with sprays so I could get more traction in understanding what is here. It was a fruitful exercise because once I noted everything in overdose it was much easier for me to track down the veils with a more modest application. The jasmine sambac then comes out and it has a bit more weight but it never rises to anything too heavy. It lilts and flows through the rest of the development. Towards the end a set of sheer woods and white musk provide the final veil.

Jason Wu has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The entire time I was wearing Jason Wu I kept thinking, “I like this but it is so light.” While thinking about how to review it; that can’t be dismissed. It pushes the envelope about how sheer is too sheer. What is fascinating is the perfume here is transparently compelling. I am so interested to see how this does in the market. Tastes are in the midst of change and Jason Wu could be right there for it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jason Wu.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone English Oak & Hazelnut- Cerulean Oak

One of the things I get a kick out of is when a perfumer comes up with a new accord or the company they work for presents a new isolation of a well-known note. I always imagine it is like the charge painters received when the pigment Cerulean Blue allowed them to add blue to their palettes. Just like those painters who had ideas but were unable to express them because the material wasn’t there; when it does arrive, the imagination is unleashed.

Perfumer Yann Vasnier is one of those for whom there must be a myriad of these kind of “what if?” ideas. When Givaudan showed him Roasted Oak Absolute he saw it as an alternative to the ubiquitous cedar or sandalwood. Now where to use it? Jo Malone creative director Celine Roux upon smelling it wanted it because she had been wanting to have a “fall forest in England” style of fragrance in the collection. Once new ingredient, perfumer, and creative director intersected what came out of it is English Oak & Hazelnut.

Celine Roux

The Roasted Oak Absolute carries an interesting scent profile. There is a sharp woodiness inherent to oak. The roasted part is as if you took some cords of oak and put them in a drying shed. They would pick up some of the smoke of the low fire providing the heat. It would bring out a bit of inherent woody sweetness. This is what I encounter when wearing English Oak & Hazelnut.

Yann Vasnier

The fragrance starts with the hazelnut. If you’re looking for a similar roasted effect this is not that. M. Vasnier uses a green hazelnut. This is very reminiscent of walking through the forest and crunching raw nuts on the ground with your boots. It is a raw nutty quality along with a slightly sharp green component. It is paired with the citrus-tinted wood of elemi as contrast. Vetiver comes along to focus the greener facets and cedar begins the transition from raw nutty on top to the roasted oak in the base. The vetiver remains as the roasted oak gains presence. It is an interesting overall feeling as the vetiver sometimes shifts the oak more to the greener woodiness typical of simple oak absolute. Then the roasted oak pushes back and it gets warmer. This metronomic back-and-forth is where English Oak & Hazelnut comes to its end.

English Oak & Hazelnut has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

M. Vasnier and Mme Roux were so excited about the Roasted Oak they decided there needed to be another fragrance featuring it and English Oak & Redcurrant is the other half of the English Oak collection. I preferred English Oak & Hazelnut because it displayed the new material more prominently. In English Oak & Redcurrant it is overridden by the rose in the heart more than it is here. If you really want to experience the Cerulean Oak of the Roasted Oak I recommend English Oak & Hazelnut to get the full experience.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carven Paris Bangalore- Tale of Two Cities

Perfume has been used as a bit of an olfactory magic carpet meant to transport you to far-off lands. That is why there are a significant number of travel inspired fragrances. They can be excellent guides to an exotic locale. They can also be a bit lazy as a perfume brand rounds up the usual suspects for each place. The latest brand to become world travelers is Carven.

Carven resurrected itself as a fragrance brand in 2013 with the release of Carven Le Parfum. Through the first six releases there was a clear desire for clean, crisp structures. When I think of the best travel scents there is a less clean and fresh nature to them as they capture some of the stronger smells of the place. The seven perfumes which make up the Carven La Collection are all given the name of Paris and a connected locale. The overall concept is to combine the Parisian perfume style with the other locale on the bottle.

I found it to be a frustrating group to test. It is wildly uneven with some having inexplicable connections. Does magnolia make you think of Florence, Italy? Vanilla the Middle East? Paris Seville is a serviceable neroli fragrance. Paris Sao Paolo also leans on orange blossom to connect with Brazil. Even when you go with the obvious there can still be something pleasant to be found as is the case with Paris Bangalore.

Alienor Massenet

When you think of India the most famous perfume ingredient from the sub-continent is sandalwood. It is no surprise that perfumer Alienor Massenet uses that as the keynote. What makes Paris Bangalore work better than any other in Carven La Collection is the dichotomy of Paris and Bangalore show up more distinctly than in any of the others.

That dichotomy shows right from the start as pungent clove recalls Kreteks perfuming the air with their smoke on a nighttime walk on the Seine. This is matched with saffron providing a toasty golden contrast. This opening is what the entire collection should have been like. It drew me in to a heart of balsam sweetened with vanilla. It comes off as soothing arising from the clove and saffron. The vanilla significantly sweetens the balsam setting the stage for a sweet creamy sandalwood in the base. Tonka provides a warmer version of the vanilla while amber provides a spicy partner for the final moments.

Paris Bangalore has 8-10 hours longevity and moderate sillage.

I was disappointed in the Carven La Collection but Paris Bangalore showed the concept does have potential as long as they remember these perfumes are meant to be a tale of two cities.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Carven.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Velvet Haze- A Piece of the 60’s

The most maligned perfume ingredient of all is probably patchouli. It mostly comes by its poor reputation because it was so closely associated with the smell of the hippies. There was a meme I saw which had as the definition of patchouli “filthy hippie”. During the Summer of Love, in 1969, there were probably many who ascribed to that in the rest of society. In scent, it is hard to shake an association once it resides in your memory. What is particularly sad about it is patchouli is one of the more versatile ingredients in perfumery. It has only become more varied in its use with the advent of fractionation and supercritical fluid extractions. Once the filthy hippie was treated differently new perspective on patchouli could be seen. One of the perfumers who has done wonders with the new versions of patchouli is Jerome Epinette. In his latest release for Byredo, called Velvet Haze, inspired by the 1960’s he has done it again.

Ben Gorham

Creative director Ben Gorham wanted Velvet Haze to be “inspired by the very evocative 1960’s music and cultural movement”. I must believe they tried very hard to license the name Purple Haze only to have to compromise on this. I find the change more apt. While I am not one who sees colors with my fragrance; if I was asked to word associate with patchouli “purple” would be one of the words. Because M. Epinette chooses a fraction as the keynote this patchouli is more velvet than purple. As has become the Byredo trademark Mr. Gorham and M. Epinette have collaborated on a lighter version of fragrance. It leaves it being like a faded memory of the 1960’s carrying a kind of elegiac beauty with it.

Jerome Epinette

Velvet Haze starts with a brilliant accord which leans in towards the whole filthy hippie concept. M. Epinette takes the clean sweetness of coconut water and combines it with the botanical musk of ambrette seeds. This gives a kind of slightly sweet sweaty skin. Not filthy more like bronzed skin with rivulets of perspiration trailing down it. The patchouli comes up to meet this accord and for a while there is an accord of patchouli covering sweaty skin. I really like this part of the development as over time the patchouli becomes more focused. This fraction is a brighter version of patchouli it carries lesser aspects of the earthiness containing more of the herbal quality. Then the final ingredient provides a bit of alternative darkness as a dusting of fine cacao mixes with the patchouli for the final hours.

Velvet Haze has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Velvet Haze is an excellent modern patchouli perfume; another in an already impressive collection by M. Epinette. I appreciate that Mr. Gorham didn’t just go for an immersive 60’s experience. Instead by only reaching for a fraction of the past they have captured a modern piece of the 60’s.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood Extrait- Pump Up The Quality

Extrait versions of perfumes that I already think highly of fall into two categories. One just gives me a higher concentration of that which I already like. That can be seen as the easier way but upping the strength without unbalancing the whole is trickier to achieve than it seems. The other way is to reinterpret the original version shifting a few critical notes while upping the concentration. This is the walk across a tightrope as everything you change has an effect on the overall construct potentially just losing its balance and disappearing into the mist below. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian chose this second way with his Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood Extrait.

When it comes to working with oud I believe M. Kurkdjian is the best at it. If you look at the breadth of oud fragrances he has released across all the brands he works for you will see every shade possible. The pinnacle of this was the Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Mood collection. Within that each mood was named after a fabric. M. Kurkdjian would create a tactile version of oud to match the textile inspiration. My favorite oud perfume M. Kurkdjian has ever done was the fourth release Oud Satin Mood. One reason was he turned the fractious oud into satiny smooth exotica. Using Laotian oud he has made one of the great oud perfumes by rounding off the edges with resins and roses.

Francis Kurkdjian

My affection for that perfume had me wondering what the Extrait version would be like. I had been warned the composition was altered with the resins removed. I was conflicted about that but my faith in M. Kurkdjian was such that I knew the changes would ring true. They do.

As in the original version we begin with candied violets and Laotian oud. Laotian oud has an inherently floral undercurrent. That floral nature is brought to the forefront due to the concentration. The violet intersperses itself in crystalline nuggets throughout. The mixture of Tunisian and Turkish roses partners this oud. They arrive with a swoosh enveloping the oud and violet before uncovering the oud again minus the violet. Now a classic rose oud lingers for a moment before the oud gains ascendency again. What helps is a simmering cinnamon and amber duo which replace the benzoin from the original. Extraits when they are at their best are banked fires holding their energy within glowing coals of intensity. The cinnamon and amber make those embers glow white hot. Benzoin I don’t believe could’ve had this effect. It all culminates in fabulously sweet vanilla recapitulating the candied violet at the top with a deeper sweetness.

Oud Satin Mood Extrait has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

I got my sample of this at the beginning of the summer and I was patiently waiting for some cool rainy days to wear it because I thought it would have not impressed in the heat. On two very cool days it did more than impressed it outdid the original. I have already picked out the scarf which will have this applied to as I enter the fall and winter. M. Kurkdjian didn’t just pump up the volume but the quality too.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 7

There are often some great lessons about how you can’t please people so you might as well please yourself. Latest example is the recently completed season seven of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is one of the last remaining big appointment television shows left running. After the completion of the sixth season last summer they announced they would be finishing the story with two final seasons; a 7-episode seventh season followed by a six-episode final season.

Game of Thrones is in a completely unique place to any other adaptation ever put on film as it has gone past the written page. George RR Martin the author behind the story being depicted in Game of Thrones has been unable to stay ahead of the producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. They only took on the project because Mr. Martin gave them much of the tentpoles of the end of the saga including the eventual ending. What is incredible is the television show is going to reveal the ending before the author does. I am sure Mr. Martin’s path to the same place has some more twists and turns but both the visual and the printed versions will end up in the same place.

With only thirteen episodes left the producers and the cast mentioned that the narrative pace was going to pick up speed now headed towards the end. I have no problem with that because I have spent sixty previous episodes with these characters I am now ready to get to the resolution of their individual paths. Here is where my first sentence comes into play. The first episode of this season was all about reminding us where each group of characters was while placing them within the overarching plotlines. After that first episode, the internet was ablaze with “what happened to speeding things up?”. I was thrilled with it; the final eight minutes showed the return of one character, who had been exiled the entire series back, to where she was born. The actress conveyed all her emotions on her face and in her eyes before speaking the final line of the episode. That was what I wanted; payoff for having followed this journey for six seasons. The next two episodes would move our characters rapidly towards their inevitable intersections. Time and again paying off the foundation built in many seasons prior. At the end of episode three with a single line from a dying woman a verbal dagger was plunged in to two hearts. Again, complaints were rife about how fast characters moved around and unrealistic timelines while also wondering where the action was.

Please address any complaints to our head of GOT Customer Service

Two of the next three episodes were some of the greatest spectacle ever done in television. Full on war with dragons and a terrifying battle of a few men against an army of the dead. This was broad action as has never been attempted on a television screen. During both moments, I kept thinking “Thank heavens for wide screen hd tv.” For all of that it was a quiet moment at the end of the episode in between which showed how smart these writers are with these characters.

One of the fun things is finally getting to see characters who have not always been together meet on screen for the first time or as part of a group for the first time. it is the latter that takes place at the end of episode five. In an example of narrative economy eight characters ping-pong, via a line or two, the reason they don’t trust one of the others in about two minutes. Each character is true to what we’ve seen before, each character reveals something new, and each character knows they are going to do something with this group that likely will kill them.

This all culminates in a last episode that slingshots the audience to the final season with anticipation. Except for those sad souls who can’t stop complaining. I am completely satisfied with this penultimate season as it felt like almost every important character development had been earned from what had come previously. Maybe the complainers just can’t bear the thought of it all ending. I can’t wait for the final six episodes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Rives- Framing Lavender

Going fragrance shopping at the mall used to be a terribly depressing experience. It seemed like all the fragrance counters were covered in the same brands and bottles. Sometime in the last couple of years something changed and a few of the stores decided to strike out in a different direction. One of those stores is Sephora. Just about three years ago they expanded by adding in some carefully curated well-known niche brands. This has been followed with expansion into some equally well-chosen independent brands. I don’t know for sure who is doing the selection but that person, or persons, deserves a round of applause. I receive a quarterly box of samples from Sephora. It is one of my most eagerly awaited arrivals because there seem to be new discoveries within, every three months. In my midsummer box one of those discoveries was the new brand Ellis Brooklyn.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn was founded about a year ago by New York Times beauty writer Bee Shapiro. As a professional she had a deep knowledge of whom she might like to work with on her perfume line. She probably couldn’t have made a better choice than perfumer Jerome Epinette. One reason for that is M. Epinette is perhaps the best perfumer to help build a distinctive brand aesthetic. Ms. Shapiro wanted her line to be “fresh”. Fresh can be one of those descriptors which has become sort of meaningless because of its overuse. What I can say through the first five Ellis Brooklyn releases is Ms. Shapiro and M. Epinette have a better understanding of the word than most.

Jerome Epinette

Fable crackles with green floral energy and woods. Myth does the same with white flowers. Raven takes rhubarb and patchouli without becoming weighted down. Rrose is a crisp vanilla rose which seems like it shouldn’t ever come together, but it does. I have liked all of these but it is the newest release Rives I have fallen for.

Rives is a fresh fougere in what is becoming the Ellis Brooklyn style. What I mean by that is M. Epinette draws distinct boundaries with specific notes to allow other ingredients to expand within. For a crisp fougere the expansive ingredient will be lavender. The four sides of the frame to contain it are petitgrain, neroli, cashmeran, and a suede leather accord. The lavender pushes up against the neroli and petitgrain in a typical fougere opening phase. It gets less typical as the opaque suede accord arrives. As with Rrose and the vanilla the leather is something which could weigh everything down. M. Epinette manages to make these heavier notes retain their strength without overwhelming. The cashmeran is its characteristic blond woody self as the frame around the lavender snaps into place.

Rives has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I recently took someone on a perfume sniffing trip to the mall. I was excited to take someone who is just discovering the wide world beyond the department store into Sephora. She went home with a bag of samples. The one bottle she bought was Ellis Brooklyn Rives. Ms. Shapiro has provided yet another reason why fragrance shopping in the mall is much less of a wasteland.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke