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Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Conquers Big Screen Bloodletting
The love we have for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is pretty much tattooed on our hearts here at wht. BPAL’s storied sepulchral of erotic collections and fantastic limited editions are always intensely wrought, whether telling their own tale or helping someone else tell theirs. In their Only Lovers Left Alive collection based on the movie of the same name, the story belongs to director Jim Jarmusch, but the scents belong to BPAL.
Only Lovers Left Alive is an arty vampire movie that tells the story of Adam and Eve, two married vampires who, as centuries pass, have watched society deteriorate to depravity while they themselves attempt to maintain their morality and quest for knowledge and culture. They find it ain’t easy. This bloody tale is exactly the kind that BPAL thirsts for.
Adam and Eve are likely the only lovers left alive of their kind. Contemporary humans have allowed their blood to become contaminated, just like their cities and their culture, and thus have successfully eradicated most of the vampires. These shallow humans are what Adam refers to as “zombies.” Adam and Eve, along with Christopher Marlowe (yes, the Christopher Marlowe—he’s now an old vampire and procurer of the “good stuff”—ultra-pure blood), don’t kill for blood; they don’t even “turn” humans for blood. They buy blood.
To emphasize the deterioration of society, Adam and Eve live separately, a world apart, in two of the most deprave places on earth: Adam in Detroit and Eve in Tangier. Adam is a tortured musician and armchair scientist, always seeking to meld these two loves. He is a DaVinci of sorts, a renaissance man. Eve consumes literature by touch and knowledge seemingly by osmosis. Adam is the creator. Eve is the critic. The stage is set for some interesting scents.
BPAL has created 23 perfume oils for this collection. These are divided into three sub categories: Characters, Story Points, and Soundtrack. Every single one of these scents emphasizes an important part of the narrative. I chose some to spotlight from each of these subcategories.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Character Scents
Christopher Marlow, 16th century dramatist extraordinaire cum vampire, is besties with his pure-stuff addict Eve. Of course, Eve can’t call Christopher Marlowe “Christopher Marlowe” in public, so she calls him by his seldom-used but centuries-old nickname, Kit. 21st century Kit wears his favorite garment, a tattered 16th century waistcoat, and is chided for it by Eve.
Kit – Kit’s scent is soft and dry as bone: Mysore sandalwood a tattered and patched 16th century waistcoat, inkstained, still scented with the marjoram and benzoin dry perfumes of his youth.
To my nose the sandalwood is omnipresent with a touch of herbaceousness. This is a masculine scent that a lady wouldn’t mind borrowing.
Adam – His scent is a palette of somber colors, melancholy memories, and lupine, savage beauty: black leather, pale sandalwood, ambergris accord, and the memory of a long-lost Victorian fougère. His perfume also possesses the scent of the wood of his guitars, the rosin from his violin bow, the musty wool of neglected Oriental carpets, the plastic, metal, and magnetic tape of his reel-to-reel, the dust that permeates everything.
Eve – Her scent is one that travels through the eons: the Irish moss, yarrow, and hawthorn of the Iron Age Britons, ancient Rome’s omphacium and honey, myrrh and calamus from Egypt, the frankincense and damask roses of the Florentine Renaissance, white sandalwood from the Far East, Moroccan saffron and rose water, and a swirl of incense from the souks.
Ava – A scant two-hundred years old, there doesn’t seem to be anything that roots Ava to her past. Her scent is utterly contemporary, and, like her personality, it is impulsive, capricious, and dangerous. Voluptuous and brittle, lovely and toxic: sheer vanilla musk with tuberose, red mandarin, and the sweet poison of white almond.
Ian – A flicker of hero worship, tempered by naivety and an innately kind nature: shaggy leather, sweet rum absolute, and patchouli.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Story Points
June 23, 1868 – True love renewed by night in an English garden: moonflower, Nottingham catchfly, Casablanca lily, evening primrose, night-blooming cereus, Queen of the Night, muted by the sepia tones of tonka, tobacco absolute, bourbon vanilla, and costus.
June 23, 1868 is an important date for Adam and Eve. It is the date they were forever joined in matrimony. The daguerreotype of their wedding day offers the couple sweet solace, and remembrance of times gone by. This is a most feminine, romantic scent, rich with floral overtones and seductive with boozy endnotes.
Café Mille et une Nuits – Shisha and thick coffee brewed with cardamom pods, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and nutmeg.
Café Mille Et Une Nuites is the café where Eve does her pick-ups. The café is the hot spot for those undercover transactions, and is where she and Marlowe hang. Blood isn’t on the menu here, coffee is. The scent of Café Mille Et Une Nuites is heavy on the coffee and the exotic spices of its locale.
There’s Water Here – The wisdom of eternity imparting a glimmer of hope through the grace of eternal renewal: the wild glory of nature bursting through cement, metal, and urban despair, purified by the waters of Lake St. Clair.
“There’s Water Here” is what Eve says when attempting to convince a depressed Adam of Detroit’s ability to rebuild itself and thrive once more. The greatest civilizations in history thrived by bodies of water. Detroit will rise again. I detect a green spice and blooming wildflowers. This scent is fresh upfront with an undertone of dark spice.
Spooky Action at a Distance – Instantaneous correlated action between entangled partners: rose-infused sandalwood with violet leaf, frankincense, geranium rose, and a spark of elemi.
The Diamond’s Gong – A celestial hymn, singing to Earth from fifty light years away: ten billion-trillion-trillion-carats of glittering white musk, with cognac, tagetes, white champaca, Gum Arabic, and davana.
The Edge of Doom – The night flight from Tangier: drops of spilled blood color the antiseptic, bland, plastic paleness of the fuselage, with violet leaf for longing, rosemary for reminiscences, and black opoponax for apprehension.
Shelley, Byron, and Keats – Uncompromising idealism, haunted romanticism, fatal ennui, and a heady amount of scandal and vice: red roses and pale carnation with a draught of laudanum, smears of opium tar, a hint of absinthe, and mercury ointment.
Shelley, Byron and Keats were one-time contemporaries and friends of Adam’s. Actually, Adam thought Byron a bit snobbish and insufferable, but basically he admired him. Eve is forever begging for stories of the dashing rogue who penned such Romantic poems as She Walks in Beauty, as well as those of her female heroine, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, creator of Frankenstein. While Eve admires their works, Adam is more of a kindred spirit, an artist who wrestles with his own suicidal demons. My nose detects a bit of medicinal floral up front with a minty spice dry down in this scent.
Quintessence of Dust – The passing: beeswax and smoke, yellowed paper and well-worn leather books, droplets of spilled ink, faded incense, blood-tinged salty tears, and the metal of the knife that skewers that illiterate zombie philistine’s portrait.
“Quintessence of Dust” is a line of Shakespeare’s from Hamlet. Or is it? As good ol’ Christopher Marlowe is dying in the back room of Café Mille Et Une Nuites from dosing contaminated blood, he confesses to writing most of Shakespeare’s works. Oh the scandal of a deathbed confessional! Marlowe embodies the highest virtue, the most refined spirit. And, in the end, he dies a nearly mortal death, becoming dust himself. Marlowe and the Bard may have had an axe to grind. The nose of all this is indeed that of wax and dust – an old candle finally burned then snuffed too soon.
Blood Popsicle – The scent of frozen Type O negative.
Wooden Bullet – A .38 caliber bullet fashioned from cocobolo wood and brass.
The Hourglass – The white roses and orange blossoms of hope penetrating despair’s black fog of opoponax, black myrrh, bruised violet, clove, funereal lily, and grief-struck carrot seed.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Soundtrack
The soundtrack of Only Lovers Left Alive is unique in that the director’s own band, SQURL, is responsible for most of the music, covers as well as originals. The theme of music within the story of the film makes the necessity of the soundtrack meshing with the story that much more important. Yes, it meshes; it meshes well. And that brings us to the third category.
Funnel of Love – 17-year aged black patchouli, champaca flower, cardamom bud, green coriander, Haitian vetiver, red vegetal musk, black pepper, night-blooming jasmine, and leather.
Funnel of Love is an old rockabilly song by Wanda Jackson that came out in the early sixties. A surprisingly similar, yet somehow creepier, version of this song by SQURL is the introduction to Only Lovers Left Alive. An old 45 spins on a turntable while images of Adam and Eve at rest before their hunger pangs strike alternate and spin, the music’s heavy chords vibrating omniciently. And there is a scent for this! Funnel of Love is musky on the nose, and spicy at the back end. Overall, the scent is a beautiful, purposeful melding of masculine and feminine: sweet and sexual, deep and foreboding.
Streets of Detroit – Black musk accord, Ethiopian myrrh, and motor oil.
Diamond Star – Ambergris accord, guiac wood, white benzoin, immortelle, and Somalian myrrh.
In Templum Dei – Oman frankincense, cistus labdanum, white sandalwood, and liquidambar.
Our Hearts Condemn Us – Keralan teakwood, Bulgarian rose otto, Himalayan cedar, and oudh.
Hal – Saffron-infused bourbon vanilla, blackened honey, Kashmir wood, Atlas cedar, ambrette seed, hay, and Egyptian jasmine absolute.
This is Your Wilderness – Honeyed patchouli with cypress, black pine, and tobacco absolute.
I can’t tell you how the movie ends. There is an evil sister, a crime, and there are consequences. There is a story to be told, at times sad and true. At times there is hope anew. And there is a scent to guide you each step of the way.
These oils are your transport ticket to inside the silver screen. Like my own Purple Rose of Cairo, BPAL takes me to another world, elevates my senses to another level, and is a true quintessence of being.
we heartsters – Which Only Lovers Left Alive scent do you most want to wear?
(Get the DVD here: Only Lovers Left Alive)
photos: we heart this
Sherri is co-author of What Would You Do With This Room? My 10 Foolproof Commandments to Great Interior Design, and of course, a wht writer!
skin tone: NC 25
skin type: oily/sensitive
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