You make such interesting friends doing this. I “met” (I wonder how much longer we’ll be putting that word in quotes in this wired time?) Brian Pera, who is cowrites the blog “I Smell Therefore I Am,” when he mentioned my blog in a year-end wrap-up. I was a neophyte then and utterly thrilled to be noticed. We began a correspondence, I found out he was a filmmaker and writer working on a project he called “Woman’s Picture,” an ambitious work in progress whose ongoing exploration of fragrance’s essential meaning encompasses, among other things, the primal relationships between mothers and daughters.
It’s a short flight from Atlanta to Memphis, so when Brian asked me if I wanted to come up for a few days and participate in the shooting of a pivotal sequence between Miriam (Ann Magnuson), the home-shopping cable host who can’t help but get involved with the lives of her callers, and her elderly mother, Rose. In the scene shot yesterday, Miriam is with Rose in a luxury store, asking for assistance from sales associates as she tries to identify an old bottle of perfume that was Rose’s signature scent. The sight of the bottle and smell of the old perfume elicit an angry outburst from Rose, and we -- and Miriam -- realize that Rose is in the early stages of dementia.
I’m an extra, a customer in the store.
I spent several years working in film production, but it was always behind the camera, as one kind of underling or another. This was the first time I’d ever been in front of one. The actual scene involved pantomiming a conversation between a sales associate and a customer (me) as background to the emotional scene between Miriam and her mother. As I worked I began to think about the great early films -- the silents - and how the actors made every gesture count. Remember Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard”? “We had faces then!” Well, yeah.
Brian also filmed a short sequence with me, talking about my favorite classic perfume Bal a Versailles. I was nervous, but knew the material, so I did ok -- well, I’m told.
Life does hand one a surprise every now and then, doesn’t it?
I’m honored to be a part of this project. This kind of thing is what perfume is really about. Memory. Fascination. Sadness. Love. Life.
“Woman’s Picture” is about three women who don’t know each other, but are linked through fragrance, with its special power.
Andy Tauer is involved, too. He’s developing three special perfumes, his interpretation of the three characters who will comprise the central triptych -- Miriam, Loretta and Ingrid -- and the fragrances will be so named. These are planned for release over an 18-month period.
To read more about the project and see a trailer for the upcoming first release, go to Evelyn Avenue, named after a beautiful old street in Memphis.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in early morning, writing this. Soon I’ll have to pack and check out and check in and fly home, to all my responsibilities, and the get-it-done rhythm of daily life. I guess I’d have to call this movie magic, the act of suspending the routine for a little while. Good fragrance is like that, too. It allows us to check out of get-it-done for a few moments, and enter a mysterious realm. I think that “Women’s Picture” will be the first film to look -- really look -- at perfume.
The photo is Ann Magnuson, as Miriam.