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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 

Tom Tykwer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Constantin Film
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born into the filth and fish markets of pre-revolutionary Paris with the gift of superhuman olfactory abilities: His sense of smell is one in a million. Becoming an apprentice to a perfumer (a distracting Dustin Hoffman) Grenouille learns what goes into creating exquisite fragrances, but becomes obsessed with capturing the scent of a woman, leading him to pursue his dream through bloody acquisition. German filmmaker Tykwer has proved his consistent mastery of image, sound and cinematic tone in Run Lola Run and Heaven and the “Faubourg Saint-Denis” segment (starring Natalie Portman) of Paris, je t’aime. Even when adapting others’ source material---here the so-called unfilmable novel by Patrick Suskind---he creates his own thematic unity, mixing social, moral and political questions into the suspenseful story of a charismatic killer with an artist’s soul. The pacing is a bit slack through the middle and the John Hurt voice-over occasionally too much, but the audio-visual approximation of the sense of smell is astonishing. Add that to the third act appearance of the always-watchable Alan Rickman and a jaw-dropping, beauty-as-redemption finale, for a potent cinematic mix: seductive, unnerving and unforgettable.
Carsten Knox

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Vol 25, No 25
November 16, 2017

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