The Sunday Magazine: Marvel’s Black Panther

I have mentioned in previous columns that I am always pleased when one of my geek touchstones is realized well on the screen. There have been extremely rare opportunities when what is portrayed on the screen not only exceeds my expectations it provides a new perspective; Marvel’s Black Panther has done this.

I have seen the movie three times now and the richness of the story Director/ co-writer Ryan Coogler uses continues to allow for me to find new things to enjoy on each showing. Mr. Coogler has poured himself into making this movie and his cast has joined him. I am not going to dwell on the plot very much but instead talk about some of the things which make this movie stand apart.

Ryan Coogler

I will start with the nearly entirely black cast and main characters. This was discussed endlessly prior to release. After seeing the movie it is necessary to have this cast to tell this story. It is also refreshing to see Africans as the pre-eminent technological society in the world. Every character displays competence without speaking of it by performing their jobs. There is also a lovely inversion of movie tropes with the inclusion of the two white actors in the spots people of color occupy in most action movies; the low-level bad guy and the plucky sidekick. Played by actors Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman I saw them referred to as the “Tolkien White Guys”. Mr. Freeman’s CIA agent smiles and nods at the end completely in the background as hundreds of black sidekicks have done before.

(l. to r.) Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Okoye (Danai Gurira)

The title might be Black Panther but the movie could also be called Women of Wakanda. There has never been a superhero movie with so many women characters who pop off the screen. The tech genius sister Shuri, plaved by Letitia Wright, as the film’s fierce intelligence. The ultimate warrior Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, always in control of the elite military guard of the country. The spy who is also the conscience Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o. These characters are as integral to the plot as the name in the title. Truth is, that I see them in the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has me even more excited about that film.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger

The villain matters when he is given such incredible tones of grey instead of monolithic black. Erik Killmonger’s story could have resulted in the hero’s quest as easily as T’Challa’s but for one crucial decision. Killmonger’s motives have some reason behind them even some which are sympathetic. What makes him villainous is his method for achieving them; pure ruthlessness. By the end of the movie T’Challa stands victorious but Killmonger and his philosophy effects a change. So much of this is due to the performance of Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger his performance is the equivalent of Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa-The Future King of the Marvel Universe?

My final thought on the movie is this. When Iron Man was released ten years ago there was no Marvel Cinematic Universe. There was a movie taking chances with the style of telling a super hero story on the movie screen. Fueled by the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. That movie was the first cornerstone laid in what has become one of the greatest movie sagas. With Black Panther and an equally charismatic actor in Chadwick Boseman; the cornerstone, I hope, has been laid for what comes after the Avengers finish with Thanos. The next part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe story needs to be firmly set with Wakanda as its center and this rich vein of characters as the glue which unites the movies. Black Panther ends with a scene reminiscent of Tony Stark telling the world he was Iron Man at the end of the movie. That seems a good start to the next decade of Marvel movies.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Cartier La Panthere Eau de Toilette and Dior Sauvage Eau de Parfum

When it comes to flankers one of the most common efforts is to go from eau de toilette to eau de parfum or vice versa. There have been two recent flankers which each went in either direction around a pillar for the respective designer brand. That they are overseen by two of the best in-house perfumers also makes them stand out.

Cartier La Panthere Eau de Toilette

The original Cartier La Panthere was released in 2014 as a gardenia chypre. Because it was mainstream the elements which might have given it bite were defanged a bit. It still was clearly a chypre after a floral opening which won it many admirers, including me. Now perfumer Mathilde Laurent really files down the panther’s fangs. For the Eau de Toilette it is all transparent sparkle.

Mme Laurent opens with a wispy gardenia given some points of light through bergamot. A set of white musks add even more opaqueness along with expansiveness. Then in place of the modern chypre a very light sandalwood takes its place.

It is hard not to see this Eau de Toilette version as a play for younger consumers who seem to want this style. I found it better than a cynical flanker as Mme Laurent does a significant re-work. It is not for me but if you found the original “too strong” this should be just right.

La Panthere Eau de Toilette has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Dior Sauvage Eau de Parfum

Dior Sauvage Eau de toilette was releases late in 2015. It is what I call a mainstream perfume for the man who only wants one bottle on his dresser. In-house perfumer Francois Demachy wrung out many of the greatest hits of masculine fragrance tropes into a single bottle. Despite all that Sauvage remains one of my guilty pleasures. It isn’t directed to a consumer like me, yet it still connected. If there was anything about the Eau de Toilette that I would’ve changed it was the slightly chaotic opening. In the Eau de Parfum M. Demachy meets my request.

Eau de Parfum opens with the same bergamot and Szechuan pepper but nutmeg and star anise smooth things out. This is the smoking jacket version of Sauvage as opposed to the Eau de Toilette’s jogging suit. From the opening the Eau de Parfum dovetails closely with the Eau de Toilette transitioning through the same safe accords finishing with Ambroxan.

The Eau de Parfum seems like a play for fans of the Eau de Toilette to add a second bottle to their dresser. It is seemingly meant to be a nighttime style of Sauvage. If you like the original I believe the Eau de Parfum will also be to your liking especially if you do want a slightly deeper version.

Suavage Eau de Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both of these are better than average flankers worth seeking out on your next visit to the mall; especially if you liked the originals.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Cartier and Dior respectively.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Tamarindo-Hold The Pineapple

Memo has been a very reliable brand since I started writing about perfume. Founded by husband and wife John and Clara Molloy they have overseen a collection which resides in the higher percentile of niche. One big reason is working with one perfumer throughout, Alienor Massenet. Which always makes the arrival of a new release exciting; Tamarindo is the first of these for 2018.

John and Clara Molloy

Tamarindo is part of the Graines Vagabondes sub-collection which is inspired by places. Which means if you come here looking for tamarind you should re-calibrate to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica as the name refers to the beach town found there. This is meant to be a tropical holiday style of perfume, which it mostly meets, but there was one specific ingredient which nearly ruined my vacation of the mind. A veritable conga line of other happy partygoing notes rumble over it saving the day.

Alienor Massenet

Mme Massenet opens with the crushed vegetal green leaves of the tropics illuminated with the morning sun of bergamot. In Costa Rica the smell of the rain forest is never far off which the early moments of Tamarindo capture. Then my problematic ingredient arrived like a persistent beach vendor or a chittering monkey; pineapple. Pineapple has started to become fragrance shorthand for “tropical”; much like coconut used to be. Like that note if it is not kept controlled it becomes overwhelming to the point of unbalancing everything. I had little tolerance for coconut overload and am feeling the same about pineapple. Here it overwhelms the rain forest accord. What comes next makes me forget about it. A stiff breeze of cardamom chases the annoying monkey away as jasmine scents the air. As much as the pineapple irritated; the jasmine soothes. I found this to be plenty “tropical”. The base accord is a sweetened patchouli softened by benzoin and vanilla. It folds the jasmine into an earthy warm embrace.

Tamarindo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Depending on your feelings about pineapple Tamarindo could be a stellar choice. For my tastes I want to ask the bartender to hold the pineapple, so I can enjoy everything else about Tamarindo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Music For A While- Pineapple Crush

There are times when I approach a new perfume with a lot of concerns. Sometimes it is the perfumer. Sometimes it is an ingredient. Sometimes it is an inconsistent brand. It isn’t often all three but Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Music For A While checks off all of them.

Frederic Malle

Over the past few years Editions de Parfums has become maddeningly inconsistent for me. This is a brand I think of as one of the pillars of all that I think is important in niche perfume. Many of those things innovated by M. Malle. Yet over the previous six perfumes I’ve found three of them to be forgettable. One of those was Eau de Magnolia which leads to the second cautionary expectation. Perfumer Carlos Benaim was responsible for Eau de Magnolia and was in charge for Music For A While. The third was the listing of pineapple as an ingredient. It seems like ever since pineapple became a thing it has popped up in mostly boring perfumes. All of this together, of course, means Music For a While turned out to be a charming perfume.

Carlos Benaim

Music For A While is a composition in two movements. The pineapple leads the first one while a sweetened patchouli concludes this. M. Benaim makes some interesting choices throughout which was what engaged me on the days I wore it.

The pineapple is there from the first moments. It is a very juicy version almost closer to pineapple juice than the fruit. There are some hints of the green part of the fruit but there is more sweet than tart here. For the first few minutes I wasn’t very interested. Then some gorgeous lavender pushes back against the sweet with a fougere-like intensity. Once they reach an equilibrium it is the partner I never knew I wanted with pineapple. After some time, patchouli begins the second part of the development. This is a medium-weight patchouli which allows for vanilla to provide a rounding effect. It makes for a complementary style to the pineapple and lavender accord. As this all comes together these four notes from an unexpectedly warm final effect.

Music For A While has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I know I’ll be reaching for this as spring gets more of a foothold. I overcame my trepidation to allow for Music For A While to provide a pineapple crush which might be my favorite perfume featuring the note.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Czech & Speake No. 88- Shaver’s Rose

When it comes to the fragrance portion of the wetshaving forums I frequent there is a tendency to embrace the classic colognes and masculine aesthetics. What that means is lots of woods, citrus, and vetiver. Those are fine ingredients which make up the backbone of many good perfumes. Within those wetshaving forums I am always surprised at the popularity of an unabashed floral perfume; Czech & Speake No. 88.

Czech & Speake pre-dated the niche explosion as British interior designer Frank Sawkins opened a boutique in the Belgravia district of London in 1978. It was a full-service men’s grooming brand along with luxury bathroom fixtures and furniture nodding to the interior designer expertise of Mr. Sawkins. In those early days Czech & Speake was purely a word-of-mouth phenomenon. Once the internet connected the rest of the world to Belgravia the story of No. 88 began to find wider renown.

No. 88 is based on a classic British cologne recipe from Elizabethan times. Updated with modern ingredients it is a great example of this style of perfumery. At its simplest description this is a rose and sandalwood fragrance.

The early moments are all rose. No. 88 starts with the lighter rose nature of geranium. A small amount of bergamot provides a subtle sparkle to the very early moments. The geranium intensifies into a full-spectrum rose. This is a spicy rose not the powdery debutante variety which is not unexpected. To provide an even deeper floral effect cassie and frangipani flesh out the rose into something exuberant. It is tempered by a base of primarily sandalwood. The wood is creamy and slightly sweet. The combination of rose and sandalwood is sublime; this is the core of No. 88. Vetiver provides a barbershop vibe in the later stages.

No. 88 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

In 2018 the idea of woody roses has become more prevalent in the fragrance world. It is easy for those which led the way, like No. 88, to fall Under the Radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Tempo- Patch Triple-Decker

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Over the last fifteen years there has been a revolution in the way the traditional building blocks of perfume have been altered through the different ways of extracting them. Supercritical fluid, headspace, fractional distillation, enzymatic digestion, and a bunch of proprietary effects to each oil house. What this has meant is perfumers have a vast array of effects to choose from for even the most used perfume ingredients. It can make for a new perspective on the familiar. One ingredient which has been significantly differentiated by these processes is patchouli.

Fifty years ago, patchouli was the scent of the hippies during the Summer of Love. Strong, or overbearing, depending on your feeling about it there was one way to get it, as an essential oil. Come to the present day and the shelf which holds patchouli has an array of altered versions. That means the rougher edges can be softened or made more prominent. One of the new perfumes from Diptyque celebrating their 50th year of making perfume, Tempo, is made up of three different extractions of patchouli.

Olivier Pescheux

Givaudan perfumer Olivier Pescheux took advantage of his company’s plantation of sustainable patchouli in Indonesia. By having a consistent source, it allows for the company to experiment with different extraction methods. M. Pescheux has taken three of those methods to be combined as the keynote patchouli accord for Tempo. When I have been exposed to these methods I have always enjoyed comparing it to the original essential oil because they have odd little nooks and crannies for perfumers to insert other ingredients to replace what is missing. M. Pescheux does a wonderful job at choosing some interesting choices for those substitutes.

From the first moment I sprayed on Tempo the patchouli is front and center. Early on it feels like a version where the earthier qualities are minimized. It is soft and to replace that M. Pescheux steps forward with violet leaf. This provides a different kind of grounding through a green type of floral. A fuller patchouli starts to become apparent at the same time I also detect the appearance of pink pepper and clary sage. It is a strengthening but not overwhelming more like half an octave. At this point it is still a soft patchouli. The real strength shows up later as a very green leafy patchouli is made edgy with a shot of mate. Mate when it gets sharp usually bothers me but in this case,  it gives Tempo a bit of bite which I found I wanted after the softer two-thirds of the development.

Tempo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tempo is a perfume for patchouli lovers, I would be surprised to see it change anyone who is not fond of the note into a fan. If you do enjoy patchouli Tempo provides a fascinating effect as the three extractions of patchouli form a kind of triple decker with enough space for other things to make it more complex.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Areej Le Dore Indolis- The Green Temple of Indoles

It was only six months ago when I finally tried my first Areej Le Dore perfume. The independent line from perfumer Russian Adam stands out for the quality of the materials he is using. He is personally producing the small quantities which go in each new release. It makes each bottle a one-of-a-kind perfume. I joined in with the set of four new releases in October of 2017. I was impressed enough to acquire samples of the first three released earlier in the year. The style that Russian Adam works within is a dense kaleidoscopic aesthetic full of multiple layers to focus upon. If there was anything I took away from the first seven releases it was because of that multi-layered nature it was what parts the wearer would choose to notice which would describe the fragrance for them.

My primary source of information for the brand has been the blog Kafkaesque. It first exposed the perfumes to me and excited me enough to buy the sample set when the second set was released. Kafkaesque has also been the best source for information about each new release and it is so again as I will write about the new releases.

The latest set of four releases have two which continue an ongoing thread through the three release sets; oud and musk focused perfumes. As Russian Adam is one of the few using authentic musk from the animal source as well as distilling his own ouds it is natural for that to be the case. The other two were more interesting to me on paper because they seemed a bit like departures. Walimah is a self-described “wedding” perfume of Russian Adam’s recent nuptials. The one which had me extremely excited for my samples to arrive was Indolis.

Jasmine Enfleurage

Those of you who have read my reviews over the years know I am an indole fanatic. The more of the filthy skanky stuff I can get from a white flower source the happier I am. Russian Adam promised a perfume “full of indolic Indonesian florals” which read to me as a perfume full of the good stuff. I get all of that.

Indolis pours a foundation of those indolic white flowers. Two sources of jasmine, an absolute, and an enfleurage, are the keynote. Gardenia and neroli provide even more white flower power as they add in their support to this. For the first few minutes the leering floral indolic bouquet greets me with a wicked smile. Just as I get near tendrils of green begin to ensnare me. The single pulsing green vein from neroli intensifies through galbanum and oakmoss. It provides a sharp contrast to the indolic florals. The smile, as it spreads wider, turns to fangs. The first time I wore Indolis I found this part distracting from what it was I wanted more of. Subsequent wearings, because I was ready for it, made it an essential part of the whole. Just as it all seems like things might turn bad the canine smile beckons me into a temple of sandalwood and frankincense. Two different distillations of sandalwood plus a very austere frankincense impart the religious overtones. This is a version of sandalwood and frankincense that sings to my particular senses. As much as I was prepared for the indoles the woody resins are equally something I adore. Very late, many hours later, there is a delicate grace note which comes out which makes me enjoy Indolis even more. Russian Adam speaks of making a green tea extract and lavender extract within the note list. Wearing Indolis late in the day for the first time I detected none of that. The next morning, I woke up with a spot on one of my arms next to my head and in the whispers of all of the intensity of the previous day there was a cup of green tea and a bouquet of lavender to awake to.

Indolis has 18-24 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Indolis is a perfume which stimulated many of my fragrance pleasure centers; indolic florals, green intensity, church-style incense, and tea. Many of those are problematic to others and they are at such a level in Indolis that I believe they could be too hard to wade through if you’re not fond of them. If you see that list and, like me, are going, “that sounds good” go out and get a sample of Indolis.

I am going to add this note to all reviews of Areej Le Dore because of the singular nature of the materials used by Russian Adam. This review refers to the version of Indolis released in February 2018.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Black Panther The Album

Yes, I have many thoughts about the movie, but I want to see it one more time before diving into all of them. I have found equally as inspiring the music for the movie which is what the topic will be for this column.

One of the things I admire about albums by innovative artists who interpret a movie is it provides a different artistic perspective on the same material. One of my favorite Prince albums is his music inspired by the first Tim Burton Batman. It was the work of a musician firing on every creative cylinder. The same has happened for Black Panther: The Album as an equally precocious talent, Kendrick Lamar, adds an authentic musical signature to a movie which lives its authenticity.

When director Ryan Coogler approached Mr. Lamar about providing a song or two he asked if he could see the movie. When Mr. Coogler showed him what he had Mr. Lamar wanted more than just a couple songs he wanted the whole thing. He has provided a fantastic musical companion to the movie.

In the hip-hop world of 2018 it is all about collaboration and Mr. Lamar and Sounwave took on the majority of the production duties pulling from a number of current stars to form a killer line-up of talent.

The most recognizable song is the one which plays over the end credits “All the Stars” with Mr. Lamar and SZA. Like I mentioned above it is the songs which pick up threads from the movie and elaborate on them which connect with me.

“King’s Dead” might as well be the villain of the movie’s Killmonger, theme song. The lost son of Wakanda full of swagger. “Pray for Me” is the internal dialogue of T’Challa as he fights for his kingdom. Every song on the album does this. I had listened to it enough that when I saw the movie for the first time I was cued into picking up the musical backing vocals to the action on screen.

Black Panther: The Album is the kind of collaboration that adds to the enjoyment of the very movie which inspired it. Just another reason for the success of the overall enterprise.

Mark Behnke

Roll, Baby, Roll

I rarely comment on the cost of perfume. Mainly because I’m more interested in whether it is good than economical. As I’ve received more access to the mass-market brands I have come to appreciate one specific thing about their marketing; the 10ml rollerball.

The  cynic says they are the equivalent of candy in the grocery checkout line. Small enough and cheap enough to encourage an impulse purchase. Certainly at the mall stores this is the practice. The perfume lover in me thinks it great that I can buy half a dozen new fragrances for the price of a bottle. Which is a great way to try new things.

One of the reasons I think this is so positive is it is a low-risk way of buying blind. If you’ve never heard of a brand like Bastide you are more likely to give it a try at 10ml than invest at 100ml. I have no way of being sure but I suspect that 10ml eventually turns into 100ml for more than just a few.

Most of the time I mention when niche sensibility crosses over to mass-market. Outside of a very few examples this is something which might cross over in the reverse direction.

This is especially true for niche brands with slightly odd aesthetics. There might be a perfume to be found within a quirky collection but finding it via full bottle blind buys is no way to go about it. A recent example of allowing for individual exploration of a brand like this came from Areej Le Dore. With the latest four releases owner-perfumer Russian Adam offered a sample set of all four plus a bonus sample of an attar version of one. It was a fraction of the price of any single bottle.

What it allows for is someone who is interested to see if there is something which appeals to them in a brand which is not made to please the masses. I would aver that it might be more important in these cases. Trying five new choices versus one blind seems obvious.

Except in the place which needs the most opportunity to connect with a consumer it is made difficult because of no smaller options. I especially think sample sets of new collections really make sense. Trudon offered buyers the same sample set they sent me for review which I think is a great way to introduce a new perfume brand.

I am hoping that I see as many rollerballs in niche outlets in the future as I see at the mall.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bastide Figue Amour- March Lion Tamer

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Late last year on a trip to my local Nordstrom’s my contact there introduced me to the Bastide brand of perfume. Bastide is a part of a new comprehensive beauty brand based in Aix-en-Provence, France. Founded by husband-and-wife Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen the concept is to use Provence as inspiration for the entire line. What I like is it is a moderately priced line and the perfumes released are bargains. Of the first three releases from 2017 I purchased a rollerball of Neroli Lumiere. I’ve worn it a couple of times, but I am especially looking forward to wearing it in the spring. I was planning on doing an Under the Radar column on it next month after I became more acquainted with it. Instead my daily search results informed me of a new release which was ready to wear now; Figue Amour.

Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen

The creative team has so far exclusively worked with perfumer Mathieu Nardin over all four releases. There seemed to be an early aesthetic forming over the first three, but Figue Amour seems different which means that might not be as apparent yet. What had me so excited about Figue Amour was when I saw the note list; the heart accord was violet, fig, and orris. Those are three of my very favorite notes, my hopes were high.

Mathieu Nardin

In the description I am told nearly all the figs in France come from Provence. I’m not sure how many of them have violets and iris growing underneath them but that is the effect M. Nardin achieves. I spend an early spring day underneath a fig tree surrounded by purple flowers.

A stiff March breeze blows through the early moments, cardamom carries the smell of fresh berries and bergamot to me. Then as the breeze dies down the violet and orris lift me up into the figs ripe on the branches of the tree. M. Nardin uses the fully ripened fig around which the candied violet version of the ingredient coats. The orris provides a grounding effect without becoming powdery. The trunk of the tree is a smooth sandalwood given some warmth with a few musks.

Figue Amour has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really want to point out the entire line of Bastide perfumes they are worth giving a try on your next visit to the mall. You can pick them up in 10mL rollerballs which I think is a fantastic way to encourage sampling. If you’re looking for a perfume to tame the lion of March then give Figue Amour a run it will definitely get you to the calm end of the month.

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

Mark Behnke