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It is said that if a Barbie doll's proportions were translated into living flesh and blood, she'd be 8 feet tall, her eyes would be the size of dinner plates, and her cervical vertebrae would snap with the weight of her head if her chest didn't completely unbalance her first and send her face-down onto the floor. That's how Tabac Blond feels -- a gorgeous, unsettling, hugely proportioned monster whose exaggerated presence - all swaggering leather and throaty vanilla, the volume on each turned up to 11 - makes me feel I ought to seek cover immediately.
I can see that even in what's apparently a greatly debased formulation this is still a remarkable composition; but it's a period piece it reminds me that there was still a large chunk of the 20th century that needed strong perfumes to cover the week between baths and the ponk of wool clothes that were sponged down instead of washed. Some reviewers have said that Tabac Blond is about the liberation of women; but, kind of like Barbie, this ancient specimen reminds me instead of all the roles and chores women don't have to put up with any more. As with some of the modernist art with which it is coterminous, I admire it but I could never love it.
26th October, 2009