THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF ~ Cinema by Yves Saint Laurent


Detective Tom Polhaus: Heavy, What is it Sam?


Sam Spade picks up the black bird and considers its history and all it has caused to happen in his life.


Sam Spade: The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.



Fade to black.


The stuff that dreams are made of, that is after all what Cinema is and always will be. Cinema is many things but the main engine that fuels the dream machine is love.

It began with the first flickering in 1896 when John Rice puckered up to May Irwin in, The Kiss. It became rapturous as a wordless Garbo  embraced her absent lover’s roses as if they were actually him. Epic in scope and passion when Rhett Butler’s kiss devoured Scarlett under a flame tortured Atlanta sky. It was no more heart meltingly satisfying as it was when Jennifer Lawrence surrendered to Bradley Cooper as he kissed her tears and came finally home to his true meaning of excelsior and a chance at a silver lining.

In the dark we as a world embrace the dream and surrender to the agreement to disconnect from reality and move into the art of the possible. Be it in an outdoor theater in the savannas of Africa, a neon modern moive-plex in Shanghai, that old movie house on main street or a grand place on the Champs Élysées everyone forgets nations and boundaries and we become one in the dream.

The faces of the luminous, the ones who live in that silver nitrate dream have many names, Valentino, Harlow, Mitchum, Monroe, Brando, Taylor. In truth they are our avatars, Dream catchers and soothsayers, the vessels that tell our mythic tales of love to us and promise if not a happy ending, then the truly bittersweet legends of the lost.

These cinematic dreams have shaped our perception of what love is, sometimes it falls near reality but most of the time we prefer our dreams to lie to us, to be unattainable and effervescently unwise to peruse. Unrealistic expectations aside and hearts broken over them, we always come back to the dark, to the Cinema to try and capture at last the stuff that dreams are made of.





When I smelled it for the very first time Cinema by Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve came at once to mind. Partly because I always remember her at his side at a retrospective of his work towards the end of his life, also because she was a muse to him, and mostly because she embodies my perception of the French Cinema Star.


Cinema is a delicate Floral Oriental that plays with light on the skin as softly as a misty gauze filtered close-up plays across the screen. It is very refined and elegant but like Deneuve is on the screen; it is illusionary and just out of reach. This is not to say it is weak or watery, not at all. It is ethereal.  Aloofly beautiful it opens in blonde notes of sweet Clementine, and white almond blossom with a hint of honey rouge in the cyclamen. This flickers and fades into a sublimely subtle rose that finds the confident support of white peony and a flurry of windswept jasmine. The attention to refinement and lush expense is lavished here as it would be on the costume of a great star. The middle is really lovely and here is where it begins to blend with the skin as the vanilla comes up from the bottom notes. This vanilla is not heady and cloying but light and frothy.

All stars flicker and dye and for Cinema there is no escaping that the dry down comes too soon. Legendary star that it is, it lingers on and retains a memory of its former beauty with a little nip and tuck from the amber, musk and benzoin.

The longevity is moderate at about six hours (imagine sitting through a six hour film and that now seems not such a short time for a perfume). The silage is good in the first hour and then it moves in for its close-up and says there to capture the attention of anyone who is attentive.

The bottle presentation is breathtaking. A tall rectangular clear bottle topped with a simple square golden cap the juice is the color of the Palme d’Or of Cannes. And through the glass running in gold from bottom to top like rows of moving film is the name Yves Saint Laurent with CINEMA brazened across the front. It really looks like a star on the dressing table. With all this glamour going on can a man dare to wear Cinema, but of course he can. It would be a perfect fragrance for a elegant evening in a tux or for a late night dive along Mulholland Drive to a midnight supper with someone very special. Just like in the movies. Sounds kind of dreamy, doesn’t it?




  1. I’d love to sample some of this. The bottle alone is impressive enough. I was telling The Perfumed Dandy, that one of my all time favorite’s, from Yves Saint Laurent, is Rive Gauche. Cinema looks like an entirely different category. Wonderful piece of writing, as usual.

    • So you were and I’m with you entirely – this bottle without anything inside seems to have me craving it already!

  2. Yves St. Laurent, scents I actually know and love, and now I think I have my heart set on Cinema… These fragrances, and most of all peonies – they remind me of summer gardens back east in June. Oh la la and merci beaucoup!

    • Vous êtes les bienvenus! I think Cinema is perfect for you for obvious reasons. And there are flankers galore to explore.

  3. I like this fragrance very much, but when it was released I didn’t get the connection between the fragrance and *the movies*. I was expecting something much brasher and more dramatic (more American maybe?) than this gentle fragrance. Your comparison to a soft filter lens (and Catherine Deneuve) helps me understand the connection. Thank you for another great review.

    • I am happy my connections were of help to you Lilybelle. That’s what is is all about.

  4. It’s such a magnificent bottle! You know, YSL used to be one of my all-time favorite perfume houses — before L’Oreal bought it and absolutely gutted most of the line. *sigh*

    I would never have associated Catherine Deneuve with Cinema but, now that you’ve made the connection, it actually really fits. A perfect tie between the perfume notes and her own persona!

    • Yes I couldn’t help it, She just popped up and goddess like when I smelled the perfume. It is sad about L’Oreal and the passing of YSL’s glory days.

  5. Yves Saint Laurent forever!

  6. How beautifully you encapsulate the magic of the movies in your opening lines MR L – you have cast a spell on us!

    Now, my obsession with Ms Deneuve – one of the last true ‘movie stars’ in the sense in which the actors of the Golden Age would have understood it (she has appeared in over 100 films) – leads my via your honeyed words to the perfume a second time.

    Though world famous as the face of Chanel’s No.5 it was Laurent to whom she was both muse and confidant. For a period in his life he would not appear in public without her, he designed his famous ‘tricolore’ dress expressly for her (at that time her silhouette appeared on stamps and banknotes as the image of Marie France) and it is said that all his couture outfits were made to fit her figure then scaled up our down to meet the needs of mere mortals.

    For Deneuve ‘la Divine’ in France – has been made a demi-goddess by the screen – that flickering black and white and technicolor magic that is Cinema.

    Thank you for making this Dandy so very happy today – and I can’t wait to spray the magic on myself to see if a little seeps in through the skin.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Dear Dandy,
      Deneuve is indeed divine. I am so happy you are happy with my meager words.

  7. Lanier, I read your wonderful evocations of cinematic time and place in the tingle of reality and feel as though I am left, sitting in the dark at the cinema, dabbing my tears as the credits roll. You have such a gift, and such generosity. Thank you!

    • Oh Patti!
      May I borrow your hanky? What a sweet and moving thing to say.
      Much love and many more movies.

  8. Wonderful post, Lanier! I need to revisit this as I remember liking it very much!

  9. I feel that if I keep reading your beautiful posts I’ll start watching old movies.

    I liked Cinema from the time it was released and kept planning to get a bottle of it. But I didn’t back then and now it’s not available for testing any longer at stores around – and I’m just not sure if I would still like it. But you make me want to find it and try again.

    • Oh I hope you start watching old movies. They are our cultural treasures of the 20th century no matter where they were made.
      Yes I went ahead and bought a small bottle of Cinema. It was a chance blind buy that turned out wonderfully.

  10. […] (scents memory) reminded me of a perfume that I liked a while ago, planned to get a bottle of, never did and now I’m […]

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