Paris is considered by many to be the capital city of perfume – so it’s ironic that Perfume: The Story of a Murderer directed by Tom Tykwer (based on Patrick Suskind’ novel)should begin in the stinkiest sector of Paris – an 18th century fish market.
Judging by the reviews posted on Nord-Cinema.com.
The average French moviegoer either loved this film or detested it. (But the majority of reviews gave it extremely high ratings.) No matter what you might think of the plot – or how closely it followed Patrick Suskind’s novel, the soundtrack is phenomenal. Tom Tykwer joined forces with Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek who composed a score that would try to do the seemingly impossible – communicate the sense of smell using the medium of music. In a way, the composers’ challenge was identical to the protagonist’s Jean Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Shishaw). I doubt I would have recognized Dustin Hoffman as Giuseppe Baldini, the master perfume maker if his name hadn’t been in the credits.
The awards should go for the music in this film. It’s funny to note in the various posts on Nord-Cinema.com that only one reviewer mentions the correct era (18th century). One post labels the era as being 12 century and another post refers to Paris during the era of Cleopatra???
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What will be of interest to Paris history fans is the rendition of the Pont au Change as it may have appeared in that era with the shops that were erected on the bridge itself. As I mentioned in a previous entry, tannery shops (on Pont St. Michel) were common in the middle ages up until they were razed later in the 19th century by Napoleon. I am sure that Suskind would have done his research to discover whether such a perfume shop may have existed on the Pont au Change. (See photo of Pont au Change at www.paris-pittoresque.com
As for the plot, pickling young maidens’ dead bodies, to create the perfect elixir, it’s not my cup of tea. Given the extraordinary scenes of 18th century Paris and Provence, I would have loved to cut and paste the film to an entirely different plot – but ‘chacun a son parfum’.