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Friday, 14 June 2013

The Sweet Smell of Success

There's a whiff of quixotic alchemy about Tom Tykwer's 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' that is personified in an excellent central performance by Ben Wishaw, and it's a theme that runs through this innovative and captivating story from the novel by Patrick Süskind, as we are introduced to a wonderfully drawn cast of characters, but it is the protagonist's deranged genius that holds the film together, bringing the viewer, quite literally, an original sense of perspective.

Arrayed around our anti-hero is a series of excellent turns from the likes of Dustin Hoffman as the mentoring perfumier; Alan Rickman as a concerned father; and David Calder as the Bishop of Grasse. Apart from Hoffman's role, and the comforting tones of John Hurt as the narrator, most of the supporting parts are brief, little more than vignettes in most cases, but they are always full of character and opportunity for expression which is seized by the players, and the accomplished script conveys so much through its looks and touches and expressions that the viewer forgets that the focus of the piece is a sense that is not available for them to experience.

Despite the eroticism evident in many scenes, and the presence of a bevy of beautiful young women who fall victim to the protagonist’s ministrations, the film never lapses into salaciousness, anchored in the Grenouille’s profound belief that he serves a higher purpose, portrayed with such depth by the stand-out Wishaw. Such are Grenouille’s powers of seduction, that those portraying his victims are, by and large, given more to do than simply cowering and screaming, and Rachel Hurd-Wood in particular is both intriguing and enchanting as Laura.

At every turn ‘Perfume...’ is surprising and rewarding, the perfect antidote to the usual dumb-and-dumber multiplex fodder, and it should be affirming to everyone’s love of cinema that gems like this are still possible in the face of rampant commercialism. It should not be forgotten that the film has a ‘15’ certificate, and BBFC Insight tells us that the film ‘Contains sexualised nudity and disturbing image.’ but as long as this is remembered, ‘Perfume’ is a must-see.

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