Coup de grâce in Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) October 30, 2007Posted by Richard Bolisay in Cinemalaya, Literature.
Perfume: The Story of A Murderer chronicles the extraordinary life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man whose incredible sense of smell commands reverence, not to mention a mass orgy including a bishop, his psychedelic exploits, his impulse to kill a number of virgin women for the sake of the most perfect scent in the world, and his overstated obsession — all captured in a state of delirium, a rare display of cinematic might in esteemed providence.
Run Lola Run may be the film that he would most likely be remembered, with all its postmodern touches and thrills, but Tom Tykwer proves that a set of expectations from his critics can never pull him down. Contrary to the somersaults of Lola and the sluggishness of The Princess and the Warrior, Perfume is a daring adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s novel, filled with lyricism of 18th century Paris, and a look at the incisive diligence to craft of its mad protagonist. Its images define sensuous: they resemble moving paintings — both the innate calmness of impressionism and the brutality and horror of expressionist works. Grenouille’s nihilism is intensified by Tykwer’s insistence on his style, the MTV-ish cutting and Brechtian techniques, from his birth in savagery to his glorious, cannibalistic death; although here his style is less imminent and effective. It’s good that he hasn’t lost himself yet, even in a grim, century-old setting like this wherein I can smell even the dirt inside Grenouille’s fingers. The raging obsession that engulfs him — a universe of olfactory thrills to satisfy his quest — and the women, their skin, their hair, their distinct air of grace, who sacrifice for his existence, his fleeting walks of impertinence, and his personal odour taken away from him even before his umbilical cord was ripped by his mother in such rancor, whom he thinks the only thing that separates one from the other, the only reason of living in this world — its marvelous hand reaches a heavenly respite. Perfume is a spiritual awakening, but more humane and perceptive.
One says that the true test of successful adaptation is when it manages to stand on its own: in that case Perfume is even performing a deliberate headstand. If cinema is capable of turning some of the vilest acts of mankind into grandeur, into a paradise of hellish luminance, then it eludes me what it is capable of not doing. * * * *