Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 4, 2013
Great costumes and good acting. But the story's a bit...odd. Not a satisfying conclusion at all.
Super Reviewer
½ April 21, 2008
An arthouse film involving obsession, murder, and...perfume? Odd, but intriguing. The broad concept (a man with a highly developed sense of smell, one that is so intense that it is the primary way he experiences the world strives to capture the essence of love) is kinda interesting, and has the potential to be riveting, but, with how the thigns are executed here, it's a disappointment.

I like artsy films, I do. But man, even with a potentially intriguing and involving concept, this is just a plodding, overlong bore. That, and it gets really absurd and hard to take seriously at times, especially the over the top ending. Yeah, there are some moments that are really creppy, atmospheric, thrilling and well done, but overall this is a lackluster thriller that doesn't deliver the goods often enough.

The production values are great, the film looks spectacular, and the music is quite good, but there's not a whole lot here that's really all that stunning. The cast is good, but their performances seem off, distant, and like they're jsut going through the motions. Plus, as I keep saying, the concept is potentially itneresting, but let's think about it: a sense of smell is the main driving force here. That's not an easy thing to make work, and I think they could have done a better job with the concept.

There's no shortage of talent here, but I just think that everyone went about it the wrong way a lot of times, hence why the film is the way it is. It's not a total failure, but man, this is a tough one to sit through.
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2007
A French peasant boy born with a remarkably acute sense of smell becomes obsessed with capturing the scent of beautiful young girls leading him to murder. I must admit that I found the first act of this film captivating; the visuals are glorious and it gives a palpable feel for the time and context of the story complimented by some fantastic photography and nice performances. Once the plot takes a turn towards homicide however, all the sympathy you felt for Jean-Baptiste evaporates and with no central character to relate to, the narrative begins to seriously flounder. By the end the story becomes a load of existential guff and despite featuring surely the largest orgy ever committed to celluloid, I'd lost all interest in it. It's a shame because it started so well and there was enough of interest going on to make all of its flaws survivable... if it had just been 45 minutes shorter. A real missed opportunity.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2011
I think I am lost as to what the critics didn't like about this. It was stunningly shot, completely visceral. Smell, like taste, is something that is difficult to translate into film and the only way to do get as real as possible and let the audience create it for themselves. The extravagant colors and shots were more than enough to start you thinking about all of the scents in the world.
Ben Whishaw was entrancing to watch as he became a serial killer and of course Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman deliver performances their names promise.
The story is edged with a bit of strange. But I think that's what made it slightly fantastical. I haven't read the book, but I am very interested in it now.
Super Reviewer
½ January 2, 2011
A man is born In 18th century France with a preternatural sense of smell; he becomes obsessed with creating a perfume to reproduce the scent of a beautiful maiden he sniffs in a Paris market, no matter the cost. Morphs from a twisted Dickensian fantasy to a historical serial killer suspenser to a bloated mystical allegory, losing a bit of steam and credibility with each transition.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2010
I'm very protective of my friends; I can't imagine how I would feel about my daughter. So, if I thought that some crazed, nut-job serial killer was going to shave her head and sniff her beaten corpse - if I was so sure of this that I would lock her in a room - then I sure as shooting shit would not leave the key to said room on my nightstand. I would probably swallow it and make her wait until I shit it out in the morning.
But this is a minor plot hole in comparison to the film's other issues. There are moments when the film attempts to match American Psycho on the "that's fucked up" scale, but the important difference is that American Psycho was about something. There was a specific point for which the serial killer motifs were leveraged. Not so here.
Also, though the transformation of a crowd from blood-thirsty mob to one of the largest film orgies ever was interesting, it was altogether too unbelievable. Likewise, the entire process of turning pretty girls into perfume defied reason.
Super Reviewer
½ May 29, 2010
Just as some have an ear that gives them perfect pitch, the premiss here is that a nose can be an equally perceptive pallate. Those who can taste a wine and tell you not only the grapes, but which vintage and where the grapes were harvested, make a wonderful parellel to a nose that can detect all the ingredients in a perfume.

However, this wonderful premiss is taken to the extreme - the best nose in the world can follow someone over great lenghts, simply by smelling their scent. If you can suspend your believe here, then the film has a lot to offer, including wonderful period scenery, some fine acting, and a certain degree of mysticism that, while bombastic, seems believable in context.

I'm not here to reveal too much of the plot, just the main point that a young orphan has a sensual/sexual awakening (the sniffing of the female body is interesting and may be considered erotic to some), and wants to capture that experience, via scent, forever. This leads him to apprenticeship to an Italian perfume maker, aptly portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, with a serious bent that has just enough frivilous jovility and a wink in his eye to make his time on screen in the first third of the film worth the price of admission.

Once the orphan learns the trade, Hoffman tells him a legend from ancient Egypt where a scent was found that, when smelled, led to rapture. So our hero, a quiet and offputting gent, goes off in search of the ingredients.

He comes to a city in Provence where they harvest lilac and other flowers, and sniffs out the daughter of Alan Rickman, a burghor of the town. Rickman is solid as always, especially when he is portraying aristocracy.

The dead bodies of young women begin to appear about town, and we're witness to what amounts to alchemy, until the final scenes where the illusive, perfect perfume is unleashed.

There were times when I thought I was watching a non-musical version of Sweeney Todd, and almost wish the lead actor to have been J. Depp. Overall I enjoyed much of what was presented here, although the pacing lagged in places, especially during the climatic scene where the tension of the situation seemed to lose steam because of it.

There are a couple of continuity problems that occure in the last third; to wit: when the boy leaves the town to chase after Rickman and his daughter, he rushes out with nothing but the clothes on his back, leaving behind all his vials of ingredients, only to later be seen with all his vials and a small cooker.

Also, when he is later caught and tortured, he somehow manages to conceal a vial of perfume from the gendarmes - not likely.

Regardless of this, and a somewhat wooden portrayal by Ben Whishaw in the lead, this film has enough going for it for me to recommend it.
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2010
Killing girls for making perfume? Scary thought :|
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2009
The movie lacked meat & failed miserably in keeping me interested. It wasn't what I'd expected.
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2007
"Master, I have to learn how to keep smell." Seriously, in French this might have actually been okay. In English . . . . lines like this one are just plain stupid. Walter, I have a new addition to our list. Gave it three tries. The third time was, yet again, not the proverbial charm. Sadly -- it kills me because I like some of his work so much -- projects like this -- career decisions like this -- are a close to sure sign why Hoffman will very likely never make my favorite actors list. Geez, and how in Hades did they ever convince Alan Rickman to buy in to this fiasco?
Super Reviewer
February 5, 2007
As good as the book. Very great picture.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2008
i watched this the other day it was good very interesting and compelling but the ending was a bit poor but worth a watch.
i was looking forwar to this as i thought it would bea good movie, and it is compelling and different and quite nicely written with an intriguing and interesting story i just ddnt really lilke the ending at all completely hated the ending with a passion as i just thought it was probably the most stupid ending in the historyof all moies!
its about this weirdly terrifig man who loves smells and looksfor the mst perfect perfume and in doing that he jkills peple so hes a bit like jack the ripper style, this is a good enough movie just dont look forward to the ending!
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2009
"He lived to find beauty. He killed to possess it."

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born with a superior olfactory sense, creates the world's finest perfume. His work, however, takes a dark turn as he searches for the ultimate scent.

I really enjoyed this film. Of course it is a challenge to visualise smell, but I think Tom Tykwer did a good job. This is one of the first period pieces that might just present the period realistically - with all its smudged faces, dirty fingernails, rags, the offal in the streets...not even the upper classes were "clean" (to our standards), with their grimy wigs and unwashed clothes, and the film presented this in every shot. Watching Grenouille do what he does feels voyeuristic and somehow wrong, and yet you cannot look away. Not a film for people with a weak stomach!

A visual bonus for me were the beautiful shots of the Provence -after all the dark colours of the city scenes, the sun and the lavender fields are a feast for the eye, as it must have been a feast for Grenouille's nose.

The film stays very close to the book and is an visual enrichment for those who have read it, and probably a great surprise for those who haven't.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2007
Stanley Kubrick said this book is unfilmable. I agree, because even though there is a lot to admire in this film, the changes made, particulalrly to the personalities of certain characters removes much of the depth and essence of the book.
Super Reviewer
January 24, 2007
Nothing like Alan Rickman bowing to a guy that killed his daughter, who subsequently could take over the world with his scent, but decides to die the zombie way.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2007
Despite a few disturbing and gutwrenching scenes here and there, and disregarding the fact that they could have chosen a better lead actor, this movie was better than I had first expected. It is also the closest thing you can come to "smell-o-vision", as it efficiently tries to capture the fragrances and scents of the world in visual form. This unique attribute, along with some wonderfully detailed and authentic settings (18th century France has truly come alive again!), amounted to a quite pleasant experience. Especially for someone like me, who just happen to love films that are set in that particular period of history. Too bad the ending was so silly and out of place though, because it ruined a bit of the quality that had been presented before it.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2008
What disappointed me most, here, was that such a visually dazzling film should be so reliant on a narrative voice-over to tell its story. It's rather like a very beautiful car without an engine. In addition to his questionable facility for storytelling, I'm not yet convinced of Tom Tykwer's ability to draw characters with any depth; it's left to old pros Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman to stand out from an insipid crowd, and they bring more to their roles than they are given to work with. Ben Whishaw's Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is an idiot savant foundling with a highly developed sense of smell -- sort of a cross between Oliver Twist, Gollum and the child-catcher from "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" -- who kills young girls to procure their unique scents for the perfect perfume he is blending. Although Whishaw has a striking physical presence, he fails to make an emotional connection. Watch this for the camerawork, the period recreation, the soundtrack and a handful of skilful suspense sequences.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2008
Eeerie, but difficult to really get immersed in... although that is obvious for a using a visual medium to depict a story about smell.

Still, a unique protagonist, creepy murders, and a morbidly fond attention to subject matter makes it a pure joy to sit through... until the ending throws you into an equally good (in its own way), but jarringly different tone than the rest of the film.

Beautifully shot and interpreted, it keeps you interested, if not immersed.
Super Reviewer
½ June 23, 2007
One of the most extroidinary films I have ever watched. It had a very promising start which held my interest straight away then suddenly dipped a little in the middle. I had to kkep watching though to find out what happened and then was quite confused and astonished by the ending.

The good parts of this film were of course the period in which it was set and Alan Rickman.

VERDICT: This is definitely one of those films you either love or hate.
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2007
Perfume is an all-around remarkable film, but you can't ignore the fact that your guide through it is a detestable sociopath. Films can get away with having no sympathetic characters, but it's extremely difficult; I think Perfume pulled it off. There's more than enough to distract you from good old Jean-Baptiste's frigid insanity.

In that way, I guess Perfume is a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors act. It's difficult to say how it treats its main character, played decently by Ben Whishaw; at times he is venerated and at others, maligned. To divert your attention from him, it employs remarkable visuals and incredible, unforced wonder. One of the best-looking movies in recent memory, Perfume shows the undeniable brand of a master cinematographer. Also, the ending is one of the most stunning and unforgettable I've ever seen. My jaw was hanging open.

Stanley Kubrick called the original novel unfilmable, and were it not for this outstanding effort by Tom Tykwer, I'd almost agree with him. (I haven't read the book but now I really want to.) It is difficult to truly get behind a film where the main character is devoid of human characteristics, but it's easy to appreciate it, with a discerning eye.
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