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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Distilling Jean-Baptiste Grenouille
By BRETT MICHEL  |  January 3, 2007
1.5 1.5 Stars
How to distill the essence of Tom (Run Lola Run) Tykwer’s handsome rendition of Patrick Süskind’s morbidly satirical 1985 novel about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an unloved serial murderer/parfumier possessed of a preternatural olfactory sense, without being as tedious as the film? In short, it stinks. Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born in squalor in 18th-century France as he’s left for dead in a fish market, and every pungent detail of Uli Hanisch’s superb production design is sumptuously captured by Frank Griebe’s chiaroscurist lens. John Hurt’s unseen narrator adds arch irony, but this device also keeps the viewer at a distance, and a powdered Dustin Hoffman (as Grenouille’s mentor) gives either his worst performance or his campiest in a film that could only have benefitted from more knowing amusement rather than collapsing in an orgiastic climax of ludicrous literalism.
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  Topics: Reviews , Dustin Hoffman, Ben Whishaw, John Hurt
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 See all articles by: BRETT MICHEL