This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
I should, in the interest of full disclosure, say that I’m not in the best of moods as I sit to write this. For reasons baffling to me a filth stained denizen of the post cultural apocalypse urban hellscape I call “home” has declared my car’s passenger side wing mirror to be their mortal enemy. Their current victory in this titanic struggle of man vs. inanimate object leaves a rather sour taste in my mouth, and a dent in my wallet. I mention this not because I expect anyone to give the merest hint of a rat’s ass, however some may observe that this may perhaps colour the judgement of some less dispassionate observers, especially given the nature of what I intend to write. I seek to assure you, gentle reader, that the following is a statement of the objective, scientifically verifiable truth.
Perfume – The Story of a Murderer is about as insultingly idiotic a film as you can possibly imagine and as complete a waste of effort and time on the part of all concerned.
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. In a stinking Parisian fish market, we are witness to the most nonchalant birth ever committed to film as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw, eventually)is brought into this world and promptly flung off to an orphanage. It soon becomes apparent that Grenouille has an extraordinarily acute sense of smell. This leads him to become something of an outcast, largely because he keeps running around sniffing things, which is really, really strange.
Eventually Jean-Baptise finds himself sold into a tannery, growing into a strapping young freak of a lad. His nose leads him to Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), once the premier Parisian perfumer now eclipsed by younger guns. After a protracted campaign to get Baldini to recognise his worth he becomes a student, learning how to distil the essence of things for use in the sublime perfumes he creates for Baldini. Finding Baldini’s techniques aren’t so hot for things like cats and iron, or the pretty redhead he liked the smell of so much he murdered her, Jean-Baptiste heads off to the distant centre of excellence of some alternative technique involving smearing it in animal fat that I’m far too lazy to find the proper name of.
Enter pretty redhead the second, Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood) whom JB grows equally obsessive about. Somewhere along the line he’s picked up the notion of an ancient Egyptian perfumer’s secret about some super-crazy, turbo nutter scent created from the essence of pretty young ladies, so JB starts a small reign of terror picking up girls, smothering them in fat and killing them. Each to their own. This sort of thing can’t go unchecked, with Laura’s father Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman) trying to force a desperately inept town council into effective action before seeking to protect his daughter by escaping to the country.
Not that this will stop JB, what with his nose that can smell Laura out over a distance of umpteen miles in a fashion that is almost as insultingly stupid as this film gets, but which in a manner that can only be described as impressive is trumped by the ending. A quandary – if we leave this recap on such an intriguing note, you may be tempted to seek out this film purely to see what could top this questionable, objectionable olfactory miracle, and I could not live with such a burden on my conscience. So behold the reveal – achieving his perfume opus, JB’s bottled scent makes people perceive him as an angel, then have mass orgies. Or eat him. Not in any sexual euphemism sense, actually eat him. It certainly trips our ‘fucking silly’ alarms.
If you’d asked me before this film if there was any such thing as a bad Alan Rickman film, I would have said, “No, there is no such thing as a bad Alan Rickman film, because by definition it has Alan Rickman in it, raising the average awesomeness of the film substantially even if it’s otherwise rubbish”. There is now such a thing as a bad Alan Rickman film, and it’s this one. Even with Dustin Hoffman present, a man of whom such a phrase as the prior could be used with equal validity, this film still sucks the snot out of a dead dog’s nose. I had rather wondered why this film was heavily promoted as being a Tom Twyker / Bernd Eichinger (director/producer respectively) film, these banner names producing a net response of “who?” from nine out of ten cats, in favour of these more recognisable peeps. Having suffered through the film, I can only mark it as a supreme act of career preservation by the afflicted parties’ agents.
Now, this is based on an actual novel and everything, albeit one I’ve never heard of, despite the trailers insistence that I simply must have, so legendary it is. Harumph. This beggars belief, and it means not only did those involved in greenlighting this nastypiece of a film think it would be a spiffing idea, but a publisher also saw some worth in it. Such complete insanity surely cannot exist in the world without it imploding?
In some senses, Perfume is almost competent. Performances across the board are acceptable, particularly from newcomer Ben Wishaw. More impressive is Frank Griebe’s cinematography, some extraordinarily vibrant colours and camerawork that show off the excellent sets. None of the above stop it being the single stupidest film in the history of cinema. Walking out of this film feels rather like it has called you a rude word, punched you in the nose, stolen your wallet and then smashed your car’s wing mirror. It’s an insult rarely seen in a cinema. Some people would pay good money to be treated like this film treats you, but they’re called deviants for a good reason. If you’re not a deviant, this film ain’t for you. In fact, precisely who it’s for is something of a mystery, but let’s just leave this with a hearty recommendation that you avoid this mess completely.