Le Parfum d'Yvonne (Yvonne's Perfume) Reviews
it seems that anything more meaningful only disrupts the relationship and leads to the inexorable breakup. I didn't care for the superiority complex of the main characters nor I understood the character of the doctor. I kept watching in case any answers come up but only one question appeared in my head: "What was the point of this film?"
Aspiration to acceptance into such aristocratic circles drives the pretensions of the three main characters, each disguising a baser background. Girardot, avoiding poverty and French conscription, lives frugally in a boarding house but mingles elsewhere as a monied Russian Count.
He's instantly smitten when snapped right up by the utterly mesmerizing Yvonne (Majani). Looking well-bred, she's truly a woman kept -by an elderly man of means (Marielle) who, though gay, is fully enamored by her.
As with many quality French films, subtle acting here is the slow reveal. Majani's skills in seduction let Marielle put behind him the homosexuality he despises in himself. Seeing Majani toting Girardot as replacement SugarDaddy, Marielle curses her for it (via double-entendre) and sets upon self-destructive behaviors, insulting the gays and Bourgeois who would be his sad future without her. Yet age-wise Marielle knows to cherish his waning moments with Majani - and to mentor Girardot, far too inexperienced to comprehend the ruin an obsession with Majani may bring.
There's many purposely unanswered mysteries about the trio's pasts, but the more intriguing mysteries here are what true emotions Majani feels now - and what future awaits emotionally-enslaved Marielle and Girardot, who can know only the scent that lingers of this woman, but not truly know the woman herself.
Yet another mystery is that, in real life, the here-captivating Majani disappeared from public view; Googling reveals nothing factual of her, except this role.
Superlative transfer quality of outstanding, almost dream-like, cinematography and set-pieces throughout.
RECOMMENDATION: Intelligent, sexy, emotional, lush-viewing. As such, well recommended.
Based on a novel by Patrick Modiano ('Villa Triste'), "Le Parfum D'Yvonne" describes a summer affair between Victor (Hippolyte Giradot) and Yvonne (Sandra Majani). It is 1958, France is embroiled in a civil war in Algeria, the fighting, terrorism and political turmoil spilling across the Mediterranean into Francophone Europe. Victor - who poses as an émigré Russian aristocrat - is hiding in Switzerland to avoid conscription into the French army. He idles away the summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, renting a room in an elegant little hotel, spending his days hanging around the lounge of a more illustrious one. His entire life seems to be contained in a trunk full of film magazines.
Into his life comes the beautiful Yvonne. Her roots are hardly aristocratic, though she poses as a sophisticated young woman, aping the style of an English debutante while dreaming of a life as a film actress. She and Victor begin an affair.
Their time together, however, is moderated, invigorated, and fuelled by the outrageously camp Dr. Meinthe (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a lotus-eater who seems to provide some illicit medical services for one of the many sides in the Algerian conflict. He idles his life in dining out and posing.
It is beautifully filmed. Leconte has an almost voyeuristic style, observing the life of his characters. He plays with the elegance and style of the situation and exploits its erotic potential to the full. The characters are fundamentally bored and boring, seeking excitement and escape from the ennui into which they have subsided. Leconte exposes bodies, but the characters remain shrouded. If Yvonne's fragrance is elusive and ephemeral, so too is the past ... and future ... of her lover.
This is a visually intoxicating film, and Sandra Majani is delightful to look at. You do, however, feel that it has less substance than a hint of perfume. Enigmatic, erotic, entertaining, absorbing, yet it is not amongst Leconte's best. It lacks something, some quality to make the fragile narrative gel and take substance. The subtlety of the perfume remains just too diluted.
The DVD offers no extras - no background or interviews with actors or director, but then Leconte does not appear to be renowned for his interest in interviews or providing extras. Given the distance in time, some sort of background on the Algerian conflict might help viewers, particularly in English-speaking countries (or non-French-speaking ones). But visual and sound quality are excellent and the film is a joy to watch.