PERFUME:THE STORY OF A MURDERER: DVD
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born in the stench of the Paris fish market - with a remarkably acute sense of smell - in 1738 and abandoned. After surviving the murderous working conditions of the tannery, young Grenouille propels himself into an apprenticeship at the perfumery of the famed Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). He soon surpasses his master in the art of creating scents, and moves to Grasse, the centre of perfume making. Here, possessed by the idea of preserving human aromas, he secretly murders several young women whose virginal scent captivates him. Avoiding capture, he is about to complete his collection with the beautiful Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood), when her father, Richis (Alan Rickman), whisks her South to the coast; but Grenouille is a desperate man.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perfume is a remarkable film in many ways, not least in that it brings the bizarre world of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) from the page to the screen. It's an audacious story, starting as the biography of a gifted but deranged man, which morphs into a metaphysical fantasy. Herein lies the film's biggest problem, because not even a filmmaker of Tom Tykwer's outstanding talents can wrangle this work to a satisfactory conclusion.
The first two acts are beautifully produced visually and technically, and even if we can't warm to Jean-Baptiste, we can enjoy the gritty atmos of mid 18th century Paris as we swing from the stinking fish market to the perfumeries. Much is made of this dichotomy, the lad with nothing but a sense of smell so acute that he can detect every ingredient of a perfume and the perfect proportions of the mix - who was born in Europe's smelliest spot. Symbolism is rife, as the disturbed Jean-Baptiste loses reason in his quest for the essence of virgins - the notion of bottling beauty also strikes a contemporary chord, but none of this gels into anything truly meaningful.
While this can haunt the pages of a novel, it's harder work for the film, but Tykwer does quite well. Ben Whishaw is a suitably ethereal actor (reminds me of Lothaire Bluteau's intensely internal performance in Jesus of Montreal) but Dustin Hoffman seems uncertain of how large to play the fading perfume maestro. That's probably because he had read the script and therefore knew where it ended up; in a strange and surreal final act which asks the audience to abandon the biography and take up with inaccessible metaphysics, combined with thriller elements as the killer pursues the virgin, under the terrified eyes of her father. The rot sets in as soon as Jean-Baptiste leaves Paris for Grasse. Filmmaking care is abandoned, and while it all looks lovely, none of it is credible or real. Too many details are overlooked (practicality is still important, even if the themes are ethereal).
Rachel Hurd-Wood is the best thing in the film, closely followed by Alan Rickman as her dad, but neither can save the film from its inherent flaw. The power of perfume (indeed all smell) is well understood by us all, but we are asked to abandon reason for no good reason as the plot spirals into a forced fantasy.
There's a behind the scenes feature on the DVD, as well as the theatrical trailer.
Published June 21, 2007
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PERFUME:THE STORY OF A MURDERER: DVD (MA)
(Germany/ France/ Spain, 2006)
CAST: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood,
NARRATION: John Hurt
PRODUCER: Bernd Eichinger
DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer
SCRIPT: Tom Tykwer, Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger (novel by Patrick Süskind)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank Griebe
EDITOR: Alexander Berner
MUSIC: Reinhold Heil, Anne Fremiot, Michelle Guish, Luci Lenox
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Uli Hanisch
RUNNING TIME: 141 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 11, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of documentary; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video
DVD RELEASE: June 20, 2007