Film Noir by Clandestine Laboratories (2021) asks of me a question that I certainly have no trouble saying yes to, and that question is one that I gather people who reminisce about the golden era of modern perfumery would also be keen to answer positively. The question is: Would you like a modern fougère built like an old one from the pre-war years? More specifically, something along the lines of Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904) or Caron Pour Un Homme (1934) back when it had civet instead of white musks, and would you like that channeled through the conduits of modern perfumery? Now, I don't mean tamped down and bleached of all challenge or personality, so it's more likeable to the general populace like a designed-by-marketing modern fragrance, I mean just made with today's array of materials according to the tastes of yore. You get all the complexity, all the evolution during the wear, all the revealing of various facets on subsequent wearings, and all the little wriggly bits that can sometimes step out of line and make the scent imperfectly perfect, but made in accordance to what's available to perfumers today versus 80-100 years ago. If you said yes, then FIlm Noir is for you. Like the name implies, this is the fragrance for the down-trodden private eye of an old black and white Noir thrillers, with his inner monologue narrating the film in first person. The sultry and gravelly-voiced love interest of his, that he likely met in a smoky jazz club and who will put a knife in his back by the end of the film, can wear this too. As a pre-war fougère archetype, Film Noir straddles the lines between being green, powdery, woody, musky in that urinous way common then, and vanillic just like mid-century "barbershop" fougères that basically succeeded this style.
Film Noir crosses a lot of different swords in the fougère universe both new and old, and the best way to describe it via comparisons to other perfumes, is to say it serves as the missing link between something like Amouage Braken Man (2016) and the civetone of Amouage Figment Man (2017), mixed down in an antique French fougère bed. Bits of Pour Un Homme, Mouchoir de Monsieur, and even Dana Canoe (1936) all intermix with the updated clarity of the fougère tones in something like Bracken, but with the animal component replaced with synthetic civet instead (which is still potent). Even with this comparison, a lot is left out, as Film Noir is very multiplicitous. The opening comes across with a blast of sharp neroli, reminding me a bit of Parfums D'Orsay Etiquette Bleue (1908). From there, the urinous civet and honey makes itself known, conjoined with a full patchouli containing all its camphoraceous glory. This is not the chocolatey or woody patchouli "mayonnaise" that is really just an isolate, but the full monty. Things get nicer and more powdery once the lavender and orris kick in, softened and sweetened by vanilla. Rose serves in the capacity of geranium to create the tandem that defines the fougère accord, with allspice and choya loban (Indian Frankincense) adding smokey spice. The rose and lavender core meld into tonka, oakmoss, and vetiver in the base, while the sour civet, honey, and near-turpentine patchouli combo offset the base to keep things from getting too powdery or like play-doh from the softer bits. The barbershop side competes with the animalic green side, and this tug-of-war makes Film Noir feel so period correct and fun. Wear time is so long you don't need to ask, and potency is pretty high too, so be careful with sprays. Best use is pretty year round, and this could be a signature .
Slapping so much disparate complexity from the various corners of the fougère world from about 1900 to 1940 is sure to shake up some feathers, and I don't expect a lot of people to go leaping into the arms of perfumer Mark Sage to smell what is basically a cross between Guerlain, Caron, and Pinaud schools of thought but translated through the finessed modernity of high-end brands like Amouage or even Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. Clandestine Laboratories as a brand is all about secrecy, and the perfumer toiled away for a decade in secret before deciding to finish anything enough to formulate in bulk and sell. Film Noir is one of the perfumes he toiled away on for years before eventually going "it's done", which is part of why it is so full of contrasts and feels rather "kitchen sink" like an old Guerlain. Not every perfume I've tried from this brand is quite so dichotomous nor complex, as the fragrance Master by Clandestine Laboratories (2021) is pretty much the equal opposite of Film Noir, being direct and to the point with more of a linear transition from top to base. Also I should note that Clandestine is an artisanal house that isn't shy with aromachemicals; but in the case of Film Noir, is using a good portion of naturals too, just not with the animal musk because this scent is one of their vegan-safe varieties. Most modern reformulations of stuff like Mouchoir de Monsieur moved from real civet to replacers anyway, so the point there is sort of moot. Price-wise, Film Noire is going to run you a lot more than most of those classics I named, but still costs less than anything Malle or Amouage makes, so it meets in the middle there as well. Besides, this stuff is strong enough to peel paint off walls if sprayed enough, so you won't blow through a bottle quickly. Edward G Robinson in a bottle? You decide. Thumbs up.