Saturday, September 15, 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

This is a pretty bizarre, maybe even sick movie, but it's an interesting idea. There is some sex and killing, but it's not as explicit or gory as you might think by its description.

Poor Jean-Baptiste has the gift/curse of having an especially sensitive sense of smell. (It reminds me of They Might Be Giants's song, "Supertaster.") Poor guy, he gets pleasure out of none of the normal things of life, only smell. He apprentices with a perfumer (Dustin Hoffman) who teaches him how to capture the essence of smell. He meets a woman, but accidentally kills her, and loses the smell. So he becomes obsessed with preserving the smells of women. Unfortunately, they have to die in the process.

The ending is the bizarre part. He sort of fulfills a legend of a perfume from an Egyptian tomb which made everyone believe they were in heaven. Is there a religious allegory here? The twelve virgins (well, 11 virgins and a prostitute) who are martyred to empower the rise of the savior figure? I don't know. Probably not.

There's some pretty good humor thrown in here, as well, almost in a Monty Python-esque vein. Jean-Baptiste's mother was a fish monger. She gives birth to him under the table at the fish market, cuts the cord with a dirty knife, leaves him in a pile of dirty blankets or something, then goes back to work as if nothing happened. When he starts crying and customers hear, they accuse her of trying to kill her baby. She is hanged for her trouble. (Sounds hilarious, doesn't it!) This starts a trend where everyone who is responsible for him is killed. She dies, the orphan-keeper who sells him dies, etc. Not much comment is made on this, it's just sort of weird.

This is close to a mainstream movie, but pretty much on the fringe. I thought it was excellent in a weird sort of way. Bottom line, three stars.

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