Sunday, September 2, 2007

Obsession by Calvin Klein

"Based on the bestselling book ..." ain't always a recipe for movie success. Case in point; today we watched

Perfume - The Story Of A Murderer (2006)
In the words of Jim Diamond - "I should'a known better". The movie is an adaptation of the book by Patrick Süskind, which has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. I haven't read the book yet, but we have it, my wife has read it and thought it was good, and I knew that the main character is a french dude by the name of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille whose only distinguishable features emanate from his extraordinary olfactory sense and the fact that he looks like the photographs of newly released prisoners from Soviet and German concentration camps.

The beginning of the movie is downright Dickensian, and could have been lifted right off of Oliver Twist, except the orphan ain't particularly sympathetic. After having worked at a tannery for a while and "accidentally" killed a girl, he runs across an over the hill perfumer, aptly played by Dustin Hoffman. Might I take this opportunity to congratulate the casting director on the choice of the Italian perfumer Baldini, because if ever there was an actor befitting of the term "over the hill", it's Hoffman.

Anyways; Jean-Baptiste, or JB, learns all the tricks that Baldini has to teach him, and goes to Grasses to educate himself on more sophisticated means of scent extraction. Now; this movie is supposed to be a thriller, and in this respect it fails spectacularly. Even when JB starts on his killing spree to extract the notes, or essential scents, of beautiful women and making it into a perfume, there is nada excitement, thrills or suspense. None whatsoever, even with a decent surround package and a perpetrator panting and breathing behind the victim. That sucks something powerful, but at least there is a coherent storyline so far.

However, as the movie goes into its last 30 minutes, the logic goes south. As JB gets caught for his heinous crimes and is about to be executed in a manner which is befitting of the french stalker that he is, he unveils the magic perfume he has made from the extracts of all the women he has murdered. Despite him being arrested, stripped naked, beaten and tortured, he still has this decently sized glass vial intact in his hands as they are about to bring him forth to the executioner. The crowd is of course enthusiastically awaiting the execution, but after JB has put on two drops of this enchanted perfume, some strange things happen. 1) the guards suddenly think he's innocent. 2) He goes from being dirty and in rags to being dressed in a garment fit for a king. 3) He goes unaccompanied to the executioner. 4) The executioner and crowd suddenly believe him to be innocent of all charges. 5) The bishop in attendance proclaims him to be not a man, but an angel. 6) The crowd starts to worship JB. 7) After throwing out a handkerchief with a drop of the perfume, the crowd undresses and puts on an impromptu orgy. 8) The father of the last girl he killed now believes JB to be his son. The ending of this movie is even more of a testament to cognitive dissonance, and I'm not even gonna try to describe it.



Cathy said...

Don't get fooled by the crappy movie they made W., the book is fantastic.

Wilhelm said...

My wife also liked the book - I'm gonna read it one of these days.

Yet the ending is strange in the book as well, right?

Cathy said...

can't tell you if it's a strange end or not, it might ruin it for you...

Wilhelm said...

...a good ending would be if the father of the last girl JB killed would have gotten his wish for how they carried out the execution of JB. That would've been sweet.