If you’re looking for something new to stream this week—and, really, who isn’t?—please direct your attention to a film that includes more dreamy locations than Emily in Paris, as many tirelessly determined characters as Lupin, and celebrity cameos that wouldn’t seem out of place in an episode of Call My Agent. Nose, a project commissioned by Parfums Christian Dior that premieres on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play today, follows acclaimed perfumer François Demachy on his never-ending quest to find the perfect ingredients to make some of the world’s most popular fragrances. And unlike the binge-worthy shows mentioned above, this isn’t fiction.
“François is famous for being the perfumer traveler,” says Clément Beauvais, the film’s director, who tags along with Demachy over the course of two years as he traverses the globe sourcing the finest raw materials (jasmine, bergamot, patchouli) from Indonesia to Italy. “If it means going to some really remote places at the far end of the world, he will do it,” Beauvais says.
Demachy, who has been Dior’s perfume-creator—or “head nose”—since 2006, has a résumé that includes blockbuster fragrances for brands such as Chanel. But his body of work at Dior spans some of the storied French house’s greatest franchises, from Miss Dior and Dior Homme to the inception of 2018’s Jennifer Lawrence–fronted Joy. Demachy's insistence on quality is legendary, but so too is his dedication to the more granular parts of his job, from mixing accords in his lab to literally getting his hands dirty in the flower fields and production facilities where those notes begin their journey from soil to bottle.
The film’s ability to pull back the curtain on these less glamorous scenes, while providing something of a primer for the uninitiated via helpful comparisons to music composition, winemaking, and a quick diversion to a katana workshop in Tokyo, gives it broader appeal beyond a gratuitous visit to the Dior fragrance counter at a duty-free shop and a stroll down the Cannes Film Festival red carpet with brand ambassador Natalie Portman. It’s these less lofty moments—workers steam-distilling scented oil in giant industrial vats to a bopping Franz Ferdinand track; arduous farmers harvesting flowers by hand in seemingly endless fields—that set up a framework for the complexity of perfumery, as well as Demachy’s intense passion for the craft. “If you don’t know who the creator is, you’re really not getting the full story,” says Linda G. Levy, president of the New York–based Fragrance Foundation, who suggests that knowing who blends your favorite perfume is essential to wholly appreciating it.
But Nose is more evocative documentary than biopic. Demachy’s humble perspective is that he’s just one part of a team that includes everyone who touches a perfume’s ingredients along the way. Some of the 70-minute-long movie’s most compelling scenes are set in Grasse, the cradle of perfumery in the South of France, where Demachy has championed farms, many female-run, that grow raw materials with generations-old techniques. “That’s really Francois’s legacy,” Beauvais says. “He is a pioneer in what he’s doing. He’s the one who’s trying to save all this savoir faire that has been in Grasse forever.” The film is infused with Demachy’s palpable respect for his colleagues and the collaborative nature of formulating—and, in a way, wearing—scent. “Perfume is about relationships,” Demachy says, sitting behind his desk, surrounded by tiny vials of floral essences and paper blotters. “There is always a human connection.”