Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Friday, January 12, 2007

As Promised...

Reviews of "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" and "Notes on a Scandal."

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer- Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born in a fish market in France in the 1730s. His mother, thinking that he was another in a long line of still births, left him for dead. When patrons of the foul smelling market discovered the child alive they found the mother and had her hanged. With that, Jean-Baptiste had brought about the death of his first victim. The opening of Tom Tykwer's ("Run Lola Run") new film is absolutely grotesque, as are a number of moments throughout its lenghthy 2 and a half hour running time. Jean-Baptiste's young life (narrated by John Hurt) is a painful one, but he has one great gift. His sense of smell is superior to that of anyone in the world. As an adult (played by Ben Whishaw) he uses this gift to escape enslavement and he becomes the assistant to an Italian perfume maker (Dustin Hoffman). Jean-Baptiste becomes obsessed with finding the ultimate scent. So obsessed that he kills for it.
Admittedly, "Perfume" does not sound that appealing, and danged if I could think of a way to make that plot not sound, as Graham Chapman would have put it, "too silly." But it actually is a pretty good movie. It does take awhile to find its footing. The opening narration is interrupted abruptly by the appearance of Hoffman's character. Hoffman is having fun, as he always seems to be these days, and while his performance is good, it is initially disorienting. It is as if the film has drastically changed gears. Once Whishaw shows up again as Jean-Baptiste however, "Perfume" really gets into its stride. Whishaw is exactly right in the lead role. He makes Jean-Baptiste at once revolting and fascinating. We almost sympathize with him, even though we know we shouldn't as the body count rises.
What Tykwer's film does especially well is show us people at work. Like "The Good Shepherd," "Perfume" shows us the working world of a subject most of us know little if anything about, and completely absorbs us. It's very interesting seeing Jean-Baptiste and Baldini (Hoffman) work on concocting new scents. The film also features fine work from Alan Rickman and Rachel-Hurd Wood. It's a movie that had to grow on me a bit, but ultimately I liked it. "Perfume" is currently in limited release. 7/10

Notes on a Scandal- A story that is almost certainly inspired by that of Mary Kay Letourneau has been moved from my home state of Washington, and transplanted to London. It's a shame, because we were so proud (he typed sarcastically, which is something that sadly does not translate in print).
"Notes" is actually a very very good film though, because it's not really about the affair between a teacher and student, but about the lonely woman who leverages knowledge of it to her advantage. Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) has taught at St. Christopher's for decades. Her contempt for virtually every one she meets is barely concealed. She sees children not as who they have the potential to be, but as most of them will become. She sees failure and stupidity.
Barbara finally makes a friend when a new teacher by the name of Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) comes to town. Sheba's a likable young woman and soon the two are fast friends. Barbara hardly feels the same way about Sheba's family. She reads her diary to us and explains how baffled she is that Sheba would marry a man so much older than she is (played by the always outstanding Bill Nighy). Barbara even has contempt for Sheba's son with Down Syndrome, whom she refers to as a "rather tiresome court jester."
It's not long before Barbara unwittingly happens upon Sheba in a compromising position with a young student. It is at this moment that Barbara realizes that she owns Sheba, and can forever blackmail her into being her friend.
Dench and Blanchett are both perfect in their respective roles. Dench's intensity is unsettling to say the least. The screenplay from Patrick Marber (based on a novel by Zoe Heller) is filled with wonderful dialogue. It is sharp, pointed, and as performed by actors of this caliber, has an even greater sting. Marber wrote "Closer" as well, so he is no stranger to making unlikable characters endlessly fascinating. You can't pull yourself away from these people, no matter how much they make your skin crawl. Nighy shows his versatility once again, as the wounded cuckold. He is probably best known as the aging rock star in "Love Actually" and the man behind the squid in the most recent "Pirates of the Caribbean." Tom Georgeson (who I haven't seen since "A Fish Called Wanda") has a small role as well. "Notes on a Scandal" is directed by Richard Eyre and is in semi-wide release. 8.5/10


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home