Perfume: The Story of a Murderer | EW.com

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Perfume: The Story of a MurdererSmell — the most primal and evocative of the senses — is also the most difficult to translate into words and pictures anywhere near as...Perfume: The Story of a MurdererDrama, Mystery and ThrillerPT147MRSmell — the most primal and evocative of the senses — is also the most difficult to translate into words and pictures anywhere near as...2007-01-03Alan RickmanParamount Pictures
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

(Perfume: the Story of a Murderer: Jurgen Olczyk)

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Genre: Drama, Mystery and Thriller; Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman; Director: Tom Tykwer; Author: Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, Caroline Thompson, Tom Tykwer; Runtime (in minutes): 147; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Smell — the most primal and evocative of the senses — is also the most difficult to translate into words and pictures anywhere near as powerful as the act of smelling itself. In Perfume, a coolly sensuous adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s terrific 1986 international best-seller, the young British actor Ben Whishaw offers a potent translation of smell and its effect. Playing Jean-Baptiste, a near-feral orphan in stinking 18th-century France who is blessed, but mostly cursed, with a supernaturally sensitive nose, Whishaw somehow gives his entire begrimed, sinewy body over to the thrall of sniffing. The first time he inhales the aroma of a beautiful young girl, the experience is orgasmic enough to become an obsession, and it’s clear he’s destined to become the world’s greatest perfumer — never mind that his preservation of natural fragrance involves murder. (J-B’s teacher in odoriferous arts is played, with amusement and rouge, by Dustin Hoffman.)

Tom Tykwer, the inventive German director of Run Lola Run, is a spicy match for the erotically charged novel. He makes effective use of images sliced thin as transparent garlic slivers to convey sensual buildup. And he conjures up a great, fleshly be-in as aroused townsfolk get a whiff of J-B’s infernally perfected fragrance. Perfume misses some of the subtler base notes of Süskind’s creepier, more self-aware original, but Whishaw and Tykwer blend the movie into something quite heady in its own bottle.

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