Perfume   The Story of a Murderer
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Tom Tykwer
scr Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, Tom Tykwer
narr John Hurt
with Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Dustin Hoffman, Corinna Harfouch, Paul Berrondo, Karoline Herfurth, Sian Thomas, Birgit Minichmayr, Sam Douglas, Dora Romano, Alvaro Roque
release Ger 14.Sep.06,
UK 26.Dec.06, US 27.Dec.06
06/Germany Constantin 2h27

The nose knows: Whishaw and Herfurth

rickman hurd-wood hoffman

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Perfume Based on the notorious Patrick Süskind novel, this tale of a brilliant sociopath is disturbing and often uncomfortable to watch. And it's also magical filmmaking.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) grows up in a squalid 1740s Paris orphanage, only to be sold to a tanner (Douglas). Grenouille's sense of smell is ludicrously overdeveloped, and he eventually he gets a job with--and rekindles the career of--a faltering perfumer (Hoffman), who sends him to the village of Grasse to learn the trade. There, Grenouille continues his main obsession to preserve the scent of beautiful women, a project that turns him into a brutal serial killer. His ultimate goal is the virginal Laure (Hurd-Wood), but her father (Rickman) is fanatically protective.

The filmmakers turn this into an 18th century Taxi Driver, keeping us utterly engaged with this terrifying genius. Hurt's post-modern narration feels both like a sweet bedtime story and an unhinged horror film. We genuinely feel for Grenouille, his mistreatment, his overwhelming gift for scents, his desire to do something that surpasses his humanity. His story develops like a classic myth, as fates conspire against anyone who wrongs him, and despite his callous cruelty, he remains strangely naive and innocent.

Whishaw plays him beautifully, with a sense of yearning with which we easily identify. Grenouille just wants to find his perfect place in the world, and nothing in his background has given him any social skills. The actors around him are very good in much smaller, more simplified roles. Rickman's sheer intensity is terrific, as always, while Herfurth's raw beauty haunts the entire film (and Grenouille).

As a director, Tykwer tells the story sumptuously: we can actually smell it. The film's design is spectacularly vivid, from the gruesome muck of Paris to the lavender hillsides of Grasse to the town square freak-out climax. He keeps the tone intriguingly real--with wit, black humour and a refusal to fall for Hollywood cliches. He also draws heavily on parallels with Frankenstein and The Devils. But it's the focus on the people that makes the film genuinely thrilling.

cert 15 themes, violence, grisliness, nudity 29.Aug.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Perfume ana maria iancu, Romania: 4.5/5 "I confess to being bewitched by Patrick Suskind’s successful book for years, and for many years I considered it non filmable. The Perfume is not a story that should be easily brought to life in the 120 minute average time span of a movie production: a complex historical background, an avalanche of details, literary characters, a narrator voice that is omnipresent in the crucial moments, and overall, the reference to one of the most non-filmable senses: smell. How do you film smell, how do you relate to the fleeting realm of scent within the narrow confines of a non-smelling media? Can a film bring to your senses the memory of scent? The answer is simple: this one does, this one succeeds and touches upon revolutionary grounds. From the very opening moments, Tykwer’s film emanates the smell of the past, brings about Paris in olfactory impressions, and up to the very end, it hovers over our senses with both discretion and impertinence." (1.Nov.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall