Sunday, February 10, 2013

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer)


For some reasons unclear to me, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has never really piqued my interest before. Despite the fact that the visually innovative Tom Tykwer is at the directorial helm, my inclination to watch this film is quite lukewarm at best mainly because, well, I just don't know why. But seeing the film in all its glorious bizarreness and vivid peculiarity after all of those apathetic years, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has turned out to be quite an exhilarating cinematic surprise.
Later, I then found out that the novel on which the film was adapted from is a personal favorite of Kurt Cobain (because he was able to identify with Jean-Baptiste Grenouille's outsider mentality), which naturally leaves me even more intrigued to read it. After all, nothing beats a dose of literary alienation every now and then.
Starring Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born in a most conducive environment of rotten fishes and market filth who has since mastered an almost superhuman attention to scent, the film starts out in a fashion reminiscent of Danny DeVito's underrated film adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda." Although on the opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of tone, atmosphere and character development, both films have captured the elusive beauty of introductory storytelling with a sort of effortless vibe, enhanced, of course, by two great narrative voices: the former being Danny DeVito's very own, and the latter being John Hurt's monastic yet commanding tenor. But before I get carried away by my comparison of a grotesquely obsessive tale to a heart-warming children's story, I'll just stop right there.
At the time (2006) considered as the most expensive German film ever made, that fact is very evident in how the film was visually conveyed. By maintaining the architectural grace of 18th century Paris yet at the same time ornamenting it with the mud, dirt and decay caused by sheer overpopulation, Tom Tykwer, known for his audacious visuals (Remember "Run Lola Run?"), has convincingly turned Paris into the sort of city Charles Dickens' characters could have easily lived their respective plights on. But for Grenouille the aspiring master perfumer and scent savant, played with starry-eyed perfection by Ben Whishaw, Paris, abundantly stinky and all, is nothing but olfactory practice.
Despite his less than trivial birth, Grenouille knows that he is bound for something more transcendentally important, so with his grandiose ambitions intact, he then sets his eyes, err, nose, for something infinitely bigger than just merely creating a pedestrian perfume: and that is to create a scent made entirely out of natural, human fragrance. And how can he do that, you may ask? Well, watching this great film on your own to find out definitely won't hurt.
With great veteran talents (Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman) leading the way, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" turns out to be more than just a visual feast. Although Hoffman and Rickman's performances may slightly be criticized mainly because of the fact that they haven't tried hard enough to completely disappear into their roles (Hoffman quite labors on the Italian accent; Alan Rickman is just too Judge Turpin), the story's twisted yet serene soul more than makes up for the convincing yet fleeting performances, especially when Grenouille, the emotionally lost perfumer himself, slowly tunes up the band for the shocking final crescendo that will surely part the viewers like the Red Sea.
Suffice it to say, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has never quite reached the relative popularity of the Patrick Süskind novel, but still, for someone who believes that film adaptations should be judged separately from their source materials, I think that this one should have received an infinitely more favorable reception. But for the sake of discourse, aren't you curious of what Kubrick may have done with this one? Or what Polanski may have added to it? Or what Scorsese may have changed? But then again, despite of those mammoth cinematic names that were, at one point or another, either attached or has shown interest to direct this film (add Ridley Scott and Milos Forman there), I still believe that this Tykwer version is enough. Like Grenouille's 'human' perfume itself, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is a hypnotic creation that exudes a kind of flawed beauty so haunting and unique that you have no other choice but be willingly spellbound by it.


No comments:

Post a Comment

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Ivan6655321's Schneider 1001 movies widget