I didn't want to do anything special for my 4000th post, but I changed my mind when I noticed that nobody has mentioned Perfume in this thread. So on behalf of Bondo and myself, I am reposting the review from my marathon
, easily the thread during the last 1000 posts I am most proud of.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Why havenít more of you seen Perfume: The Story of a Murderer? What is the bias against this film? This is not only the best film Iíve seen in the marathon so far, after this viewing itís going in my Top 100 Films of All Time.
I first saw Perfume when it landed on DVD in 2007. Expecting a stuffy costume piece with a serial killer angle, I was very surprised by how good it was. Itís much more complex than I was led to believe, also much more entertaining. I was very impressed, and thatís where it sat in my brain.
This was my 2nd viewing and this time, watching with a more critical eye, I was completely knocked out. You may have noticed I havenít posted any updates in a couple of days. Thatís because this film was such a transcendent experience I didnít want to move on so quickly. Iíve been letting it sit in my brain.
So whatís so special about Perfume: The Story of A Murderer?
Letís start with the high-concept idea, the kind Hollywood Studios love to build big-budget blockbusters on. The basic conceit of this film could have been a Jim Carrey romantic comedy. Hereís the pitchÖ Our main character has the greatest sense of smell of anyone who has ever walked this earth. He uses this ability to become the master of perfume. But thereís an emptiness in his life, something missing. A girl he once knew, who possessed what he believed to be the most perfect odor. His lifeís work becomes the quest to recapture that perfection.
As with all good high concepts, the success depends on a writer who can execute his idea to the fullest. Like with Groundhog Day, there should be nothing left for a sequel. You put every possible situation into this one script. With a considerable nod to the source novel by Patrick SŁskind, Perfume does exactly that. The story fully commits to the concept and plays it to its fullest possible extent. I couldnít believe the sheer balls-iness of the final two set-pieces, but the bolder the story got, the further it went, the more I loved it. The last 20 minutes of this film are as audacious and worthy of discussion as the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyessy.
Itís been said that the late, great Stanley Kubrick himself claimed that the source novel was unfilmable because no movie can possibly convey the sense of smell. Director Tom Tykwer previously helmed Run, Lola Run and nothing else of note except his contribution to Paris Je T'aime, a mini-masterpiece of tone and editing. Perfume achieves the impossible and itís a masterful tour-de-force.
Through careful shot-selection and some really controlled fast edits, Tykwer conveys the stench of the Parisian fish market where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born. His careful inclusion of colors express the growing pleasant fragrances that slowly envelop Grenouille; none so pleasing as the woman simply known as ďThe Plum GirlĒ.
The most obvious visual effect Ė and itís a marvel Ė comes when Grenouille off-handedly creates a new fragerance for discredited perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman, perfectly cast). Hoffman closes his eyes and takes a whiff. As the camera spins around, his dank room transforms into a lush, flowery meadow. A beautiful brunette walks up behind him and whispers, ďI love youĒ into his ear.
As the filmís center, Grenouille makes for a perfect blank slate. Always pushed around and reacting to the actions of others, Grenouille speaks very little and nobody else in the film is even aware of his dreams, desires or ultimate plans. Thereís a definite antichrist aspect to his character. Those who encounter him often find success followed by unexpected misfortune. Heís also incredibly resilient against disease and squalor. His road to murder starts in absolute innocence, a murder that also fuels his ultimate quest.
The filmís more vile aspects turned off some people. I appreciated that we didnít get a soft-peddled version of the story. The heinous living conditions are realistically depicted and Tykwer never makes the sometimes aberrant behavior seem less so. He doesnít make Grenouille a hero or a monster, but a man obsessed and we see that obsession carried to its extreme end. Itís an adult masterpiece.