Xmas came early for me this year after a kindly reader, Carole in Canada, sent me an incredibly generous bounty of Nars and Bite Beauty goodies, purely out of the goodness of her heart. That shit doesn't happen every day, let me tell you, so I'm going to review my favourite of the bunch, Nars Audacious Marlene. Thanks, Carole!
You may have noted that I am a bit of a fucking Nars superfan but this enthusiasm is based strictly on an overwhelmingly positive experience of the brand. In particular, I don't think I've ever met a Nars Audacious shade I didn't like, and Marlene is no exception to that unblemished record.
Marlene is a warm, bricky red, the colour of a really good tomato soup or a pile of cayenne pepper, rich and dense with a strong orange undertone. Once again, Nars pulls off the impossible by creating a hot red that doesn't look like something stuck to Imelda Marcos' or Pennywise's teeth in 1978. You have got to respect that.
It is loud, but in a RuPaul sort of way; there is great art and finesse in its brilliant volume. Furthermore, there is a strongly organic quality to Marlene's bigness, which is probably why it's so successful aesthetically. It is the queen of all the ocherous reds I've tried thus far, pulling in the best elements of capsicum, brick dust, vermillion lacquer, blood orange, volcanic mud and hot sauce.
Despite all those descriptors I wouldn't really call this shade dirty, for the same reason it's not really retro or vintage looking either; that deep twist to its incredible saturation keeps it strangely contemporary.
The Audacious range features a number of different finishes, with this shade representing its most creamy and opaque manifestation. Marlene applies like warm butter, spreading easily right from that nice fat bullet without feeling greasy or slippery, pretty much cancelling out the influence of your native lip colour, which is always a blessing.
It doesn't thin out, even with vigorous redistribution, nor does it really dry down, retaining its supremely comfortable satiny finish that is tenacious enough to live through hot drinks and a light meal without wandering into any old bag wrinkles or doing that greasy breakdown thing. It's lasting and reliable.
You might be able to perceive the overwhelming nature of this shade's pigmentation and opacity in the palm swatches below. Sheer it is not.
Below- natural light swatches. Nars Iberico on the right there is a clean true orange and Urban Decay F-Bomb (original version) is a pretty red/red, if you need the references. Marlene doesn't really go wonky under different lighting situations. Mysterious Red is matte AF so you can see that F-Bomb and Marlene are definitely satin.
Nars Mysterious Red, Ruffian Red, Nars Iberico