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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: F
What the MPAA Rating should be: NC-17 (for brutal violence, nudity and strong sexual content)

Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by: Tom Tykwer, Andrew Birkin and Bernd Eichinger
Based on the book by: Patrick Suskind
Produced by: Bernd Eichinger
Starring: Ben Wishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Alan Rickman
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures

In all my years of watching films and reviewing them, I have never been subjected to a more disgusting and repulsive film than Pefume: The Story of a Murderer, based on the book by Patrick Suskind. That is in no way a compliment, though. Many people complain about all the bad eggs that come out of America, but this German production is just as bad and horrific as Super Mario Bros. and Wild Wild West. I have heard it described as a comedy, but not once did I laugh. I was sitting in my seat with a frown and a face of annoyance the whole time. Stanley Kubrick, one of cinema's greatest directors, thought about doing Perfume, but in the end, he didn't do it and described it as "unfilmable." Luckily, he didn't make it and his career continued intact and he is still considered a master long after his death. Tom Tyker should have taken Kubrick's advice, but alas, he did not and so we are stuck with a rotten milk carton of a film.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born in the fish market of the dirty French streets and immediately develops a unique sense of smell, allowing him to get scents from many destinations. After accidentally killing a young woman, he smells her as quickly as he can, but the scent quickly disappears. To learn how to keep a woman's smell for longer, he meets a perfume maker called Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) who teaches him how to do so. He also tells the story of a myth of the ultimate perfume, which gives Grenouille some really stupid ideas. He moves on ahead to the town of Grasse, where he gets a new job and he soon begins his plot. He starts a killing spree on numerous women, causing the city to panic and a member of parliament (Alan Rickman) will stop at nothing to catch him before the life of his daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is taken as well.

The plot of Perfume is ridiculous to begin with and director/writer Tykwer makes it even worse by actually showing the audiences the images of his crime. At least, on the printed page, it's only described. In the film version, the director and his cinematographer Frank Griebe launch them right into our face and we are not at all pleased. The performances don't help either. Newcomer Ben Wishaw looks like he's imitating actors in an Ed Wood film by being as stale as possible. Dustin Hoffman overacts as if he was either in a Mel Brooks comedy or reprising his part in Hook, not playing a perfume maker in a period piece. Alan Rickman, who like Hoffman is also usually great, takes a 180 degree turn from the Oscar-winning actor (whose days of glory have now flown by quickly) by being as under-the-top as possible. It's a shame to see great actors wasted on such a piece of stupidity. I have just named the plot of an acclaimed novel "stupid" and I feel in no way guilty about it. Suskind has a sick mind for coming up with this disgusting storyline and Tykwer as well for having the gull bladder to bring it to the screen. I don't recommend Perfume at all, unless you're into this sort of thing.

Grenouille's first victim in the horrible Perfume.
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