Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (2006)

DVD Cover (DreamWorks)
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Overall Rating 78%
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Ranked #671
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Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born in the stench of 18th century Paris, develops a superior olfactory sense, which he uses to create the world's finest perfumes. However, his work takes a dark turn as he tries to preserve scents in the search for the ultimate perfume. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: March 1, 2007
How does one go about capturing the essence of scent in a motion picture? How do you turn something so personal and so unique into something that can be easily consumed by audiences across the world? Patrick Suskind was able to do so in book form, and director Tom Tykwer was called upon to do so in motion picture form. And what better director to tackle "Perfume"? This is the same visionary who brought us "Run Lola Run" and the underrated "The Princess and the Warrior", not to mention the lost gem, "Heaven" with Cate Blanchett. From the first trailer I saw for this film, I was hooked. I couldn't wait to see it. Alas, never did "Perfume" grace the hallowed streets of Birmingham, Alabama, and I was left to wonder when a DVD release might finally secure my seeing the film. Then, last week, the unthinkable happened. "Perfume" opened at the local dollar cinema, which was odd considering it had never even played in town beforehand. As you might imagine, I was the first in line to catch "Perfume: Story of A Murderer" for $1.00. There were few people in the theatre, and it probably won't last longer than one week at the dollar cinema, but I was thrilled to pay such a minimal price for such quality entertainment. It rocked my world.

The film tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), born in a fish market, abandoned by his mother, sent to an orphanage, and then sent to work at a tannery, where most die after five years of hard labor. However, Jean-Baptiste was not like the others. His extraordinary olfactory abilities made him able to detect any scent - anywhere. He could pick up the slightest odors from a mile away. He could smell a mixture of aromas and dissect each and every content therein. Eventually, Jean-Baptiste goes to work for Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) a formerly great perfumer in Paris. Jean-Baptiste transforms Baldini's business into a success and Baldini teaches Jean-Baptiste everything he knows about how to capture scent. When Jean-Baptiste has learned all he can, he leaves Paris for the city of Grasse where he hopes to learn perfuming secrets that will finally allow him to permanently capture scent. While there, his determination and his strange obsession turn dark as beautiful young girls go missing across the village. Alan Rickman co-stars as Antoine Richis, a wealthy merchant whose daughter, he fears, might be the next victim.

Above all else, this is a beautiful film. The cinematography by Frank Griebe is astonishing, and along with the direction by Tykwer, firmly captures the feel and the intoxication of scents. During the first few moments of the film, when the camera travels up someone's nose, I thought the worst for the film, but by the end - it made perfect sense and I was hooked. "Perfume" is one of those rare films that defies explanation - I have never seen a film quite like it before, and I can't imagine ever seeing one quite like it again. It felt like a Stanley Kubrick version of "Oliver Twist", with some added twists and turns. It felt like something David Cronenberg might have tackled if he'd ever shown interest in period pieces. The bright and vibrant colors throughout the film stick out like sore thumbs because the remainder of France is filmed as dingy and dirty and very unfit. The colors in the film help us identify with the scents that Jean-Baptiste so eagerly wants. But, don't be fooled into thinking this film is light and fluffy. This is also one of the most disturbing and violent films of last year - showing the lengths to which someone will go to fulfill their obsessions.

As Jean-Baptiste, Ben Whishaw is oddly inviting and very watchable in a role that could have easily been mishandled by another. Whishaw is a fresh face on screens, and he doesn't really fit into any acting scheme I can spout offhand. Most of his acting is non-verbal, which is what is required, and he manages to keep us locked to him when he is saying nothing at all. As Baldini, Dustin Hoffman appears to be having a load of fun in a role that showcases his knack for taking supporting characters and making them as memorable as possible. Most of the humor in the film comes from Hoffman. Also engaging in a supporting role is the powerful Alan Rickman as a father desperate to make certain no harm comes to his daughter. Rickman has a couple scenes towards the end of this film that are nothing short of amazing and he really delivers when needed. Rachel Hurd-Wood, the annoying actress from "An American Haunting", is absolutely stunning here and does a fine job as Laura, the final pawn in Jean-Baptiste's game of human Chess. She's quite nice here.

Let me stress again that you won't find another film quite like "Perfume". I compare it to Stanley Kubrick because his work often defied explanation. You could never really say one Kubrick film was like the other, because they were all so different, linked loosely by Kubrick's visual style and knack for storytelling. Tom Tykwer obviously has some degree of that same talent, and he uses it to full effect here. "Perfume" was, on the whole, a better film than "Run Lola Run" and might be the best work Tykwer has offered up yet. It's engaging, puzzling, beautiful, insane, watchable and absolutely mind-boggling, at points. The character of Jean-Baptiste remains engaging and likable even though he is committing these horrible acts. And, the ending of this film comes out of nowhere and really makes you question what you've seen up to that point. However, it all makes perfect sense and ends the film the way it probably should end. I highly recommend "Perfume", which will probably hit DVD shelves before too long. It's one of the best from 2006.

Chad #1: Chad - added July 29, 2007 at 4:50pm
Holy shit.

That's all I'm going to say. Holy shit, and 10/10.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #2: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added December 21, 2007 at 10:53am
This is such a highly captivating film all the way through, especially with the climax, and what a climax it is!
axle parker #3: axle parker - added November 14, 2010 at 7:38am
well what can i say? I'm preachers.!
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