Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Karoline Herfurth and Ben Whishaw in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

 

Having wandered off up arthouse avenue in recent years, with The Princess and the Warrior and Heaven, director Tom Tykwer delivers his most accessible film since Run Lola Run. It’s an adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s runaway best-seller about an 18th century peasant with an incredible olfactory talent and the trouble that that gets him into. The feted Ben Whishaw gives it plenty of Norman Wisdom/Lee Evans gaucheness in the lead, as the lad whose almost Asperger’s talent for one single thing, and a commensurate lack of social skills, drives him on a giddy flight to the dark side. And the supporting cast is notable, sumptuous even. Dustin Hoffman does an entirely inappropriate panto act as the perfumer who’s lost his spark, until Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) comes into his life, while Alan Rickman adds some theatrical bottom as the number one man on Grenouille’s tail, the father of one of his victims. Because where Grenouille’s nose takes him is towards murder, as he tries to produce a scent that can catch the essence of truth, beauty and life itself by killing attractive young women and then macerating them in animal fat – essence de femme morte. If that sounds like a tall order and one doomed to failure, the film has a similar ambition and outcome, aiming to get Susskind’s authorial voice and Grenouille’s first person point of view onto the screen at the same time (John Hurt doing his John Hurt thing in voiceover). Tykwer lavishes a large proportion of his decent budget getting the stink and filth of the 18th century onto the screen, and agonises over his compositions, whether they are of gorgeous women such as Rachel Hurd-Wood or Karoline Herfurth (her vivid red hair alone makes the film worth a look) or seething masses of maggots and other signifiers of decay. But no amount of set-dressing can hide the fact that the book has died on the way to the screen. Ironically the film is simply too literal, and without Süskind’s authorial voice teasing us this way and that, it’s hard to dispel the nagging feeling that what we’re watching is the Tooth Fairy strand from Silence of the Lambs rendered in the style of an upmarket continental lager advertisement. As for the blackly comic turn Tykwer takes at the end, it’s a throws-hands-in-the-air get-out for a film that looks like it had no idea how to end.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Watch It at Amazon

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

Galaxy Quest

Alan Rickman in Galaxy Quest

 

 

Turn on TV most nights and there’s some Star Trek spin-off boldly heading off somewhere. In it are actors you’ve never seen before and will possibly never see in anything else again. As coloured latex hangs off various bits of various faces they strike heroic poses and over-earnestly deliver lines from rehashes of scenarios that were tired in the Sixties. Galaxy Quest knows those shows and those actors. It follows a past-it sci-fi cast as they do the convention circuit, signing books for the geeks they despise, bickering among themselves, boring anyone who’ll listen with stories of antique Shakespearean glory. Then, gasp, a bunch of real aliens turn up, expecting not crummy autographs, but real heroes to save their planet. At which point Galaxy Quest takes off, boldly going with its perfect cast where Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs should have gone before. As for the cast, Tim Allen could be William Shatner’s brother, no one does supreme boredom like Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver shows that even an Alien star can laugh at her legacy. Zapping satirical targets with photon-torpedo accuracy and eventually hitting warp speed with jump-out-of-chair heroics, this is a geniunely funny sci-fi spoof and a great adventure too. These days that’s harder to find than William Shatner’s hairline.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Galaxy Quest – at Amazon