Long-time readers will know that I’m a big fan of German director Tom Tykwer, who has previously given us such gems as Run Lola Run and The Princess and the Warrior. I’m less of a fan of Patrick Suskind’s gimmicky scent-based novel, which strikes me as a strange choice for Tykwer’s first big-budget movie, especially given that previous attempts by more established directors like Scorsese, Kubrick, Ridley Scott and Tim Burton have all floundered.
Undeterred by this, and by the lack of smell-o-vision cinemas in which to present this experience, Tykwer goes for loads of close-ups of nostrils, which isn’t the most enticing prospect to the average moviegoer. Added to that, the movie spends the first hour in the grimy and disease-ridden back streets of 18th century Paris, and it’s only when it opens up and lets some daylight in that we start to enjoy it. It’s the most expensive German movie ever, and the money is right up there on screen in the astonishing historical detail, not to mention the climactic scenes which I believe are the world’s first CGI orgy.
There are fine performances all round, from newcomer Ben Whishaw as the eponymous killer, as well as more established stars like Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman. It’s a strange mix of ugly and beautiful, of sordid and moving, and is certainly not for everyone, but Tykwer’s eye for an image (with regular DP Frank Griebe) and his score (written with his regular band) make it all worthwhile.
I can’t think of another director working today who is as consistently brilliant. However, as the American censor advice says, this one is ‘rated R for aberrant behaviour involving nudity, violence, sexuality, and disturbing images’. So don’t blame me.