Bette Davis : never more than 4 or 5 great films a year

Just to put Bette Davis’ quote in context, this is what she said when interviewed in 1981 on Good Morning America.

They talk about the golden years. It was just as hard work then… and there were not many great films each year then. They talk about it now as if EVERY film we made was a gem. No… there were never more than 4 or 5 great films a year.

I think of Bette Davis when I read posts that list the “10 best of 2015”. Or worse, “the 10 best perfumes of spring 2015”. Of course, the “best of” does not preclude that only 4 or 5 of those perfumes are great in any one year but it helps to keep this fact in mind when running out to try the latest Olivier Polge or Jean-Claude Ellena or Bertrand Duchaufour.

And this brings me to the elephant in the room which I have never read much about in books about perfume or the blogs. Which perfumes would make up the canon of modern perfumery and by canon, I mean the list of perfumes considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality.  And how do we establish the canon?  You have to start at a given year and then look at the trajectory of perfume development over the decades and follow trends, influences and excellence. Which perfumes influenced other perfumes. Which started offshoots. Which are so unique, they stand in a class of their own? You have to create the canon like one does in art… but looking at which painters had the most influence on the painters that followed them.

And so, keeping in mind that there were 1620 new releases in 2014, how many of those would make the canon for 2014?  4?  5?  Maybe none.  Maybe 10.

This is the kind of project I’d love to do when I retire. Any thoughts?

On this International Women’s Day of 2016, I vote that Frida Kahlo makes the Western art canon… absolutely beautiful and unique artist.





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  1. WHAT a project this could be! I wholeheartedly appreciate that the sheer number of new releases put out any given year is really daunting to those of us intent on trying to get our noses around as much perfume as we can. It can feel frustrating at times, but also, personally speaking, it’s the thrill of the hunt and potentially discovering something really special that makes me keep up the exploration.

    And sure, I find perfumes that tick all the right boxes for me. However, I suppose whether or not they are something that can be considered a classic is another story entirely. Understanding a fragrance sometimes is not an immediate click. And, as you said in a previous post, it’s a shame that proper courses on the study of fragrance are not widely available because it is an artistic medium with a proven track record of pushing boundaries of both acceptability and beauty.

    • The probably with creating a canon of modern perfumery is that perfume is not like art or literature. It changes over time… new formulations often in the 2nd version. So… you’d be kind of using the literature a lot to define influences by people who wore them. Like… who remembers what Fougère Royale smelled like then? You’d have to to go the Osmothèque.

      It’s a difficult subject but thanks for adding to it!



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