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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PERFUME (2006)

Wispy Ben Whishaw, who stars as the young man with a genius for all things olfactory, just hasn’t the nose for this horror-filled fairy tale. (The young Gerard Depardieu would be more like it. Now, there’s a nose.) It’s the story of an orphan boy who grows up to be the world’s greatest perfumier, striving to capture an essence that will literally conquer wills at a waft. And if he must murder a few lovely girls in his quest, so be it. The look of Pre-Revolutionary France is extravagantly captured, but the story, so rapturous on the page, feels a bit preposterous under the realistic helming of Tom Twyker whose inability to find a visual equivalent for SCENT hobbles the marvelous conceit so wonderfully captured in Patrick Süskind’s novel. Playing the young sniffer’s mentor, Dustin Hoffman flails away in the style of eccentric British acting royalty that everyone else here (from Alan Rickman on down) wears as second nature. Did anyone bother to notice that the story takes place in France? Oh well, the gruesome fantasy of the basic material manages to hold your attention and the film improves even if it goes on too long, faithful to a fault. Author Patrick Süskind waited two decades to sell the much coveted rights to his acclaimed novel . . . maybe he should have waited a decade or two longer.

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