Movie review

  • 2006-11-01
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Snakes on a Plane

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
"Perfume" blends painterly close-ups and montages of 18th century France's lurid urban underbelly to recreate on film the sensuous atmosphere of Patrick Suskind's engrossing novel. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a young man gifted with a preternaturally sensitive nose who becomes consumed with capturing scents, the most sublime of which for him is the delicate aroma of nubile virgins. Having learned the perfumers' craft, Grenouille robs his victims of their aroma as if their skin were flower petals and discards them like used stems leaving a trail of lifeless bodies in his wake. German director Tom Tykwer unravels the disturbing story of Grenouille without graphic violence while portraying his anti-hero not as a bent madman or demented psychopath but as an obsessed artistic genius whose amorality is perhaps rooted in the wretched society which failed him. Ben Whishaw is perfectly cast as the reticent, awkward idiot savant while Dustin Hoffman, whose American accent stands out awkwardly amid a mostly British cast, feels out of place as Grenouille's teacher Baldini. "Perfume" faithfully evokes some of the novel's themes, including the human hunger to possess and devour and our weakness for making messiahs out of men. And yet the film stands on its own as an absorbing tale. 
( Sherwin Das )

As I haven't read Patrick Suskind's book I can't comment on how good this film is as an adaptation. But as a film in its own right "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is a bold and at times extremely beautiful piece of work. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born into the filth and squalor of 18th century Paris. He is also born with an extraordinarily sharp sense of smell. After accidentally killing a girl while trying to smell her in a dark alleyway, he resolves to learn how to bottle the scent of people forever with the help of the famous perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). Ben Whishaw is impressive as the obsessed Grenouille, combining innocence and madness to disturbing effect. But what makes the film unique is, of course, its olfactory subject matter. Director Tykwer does an excellent job of conveying the world of smell through visual prompts and the film's inventive editing makes it a distinctly sensual affair. Unfortunately, having missed the press screening I watched a matinee performance surrounded by teenagers, nearly all of whom burst out laughing at the outrageous finale. Oh well. People will doubtless walk away from this film sniffing the air, but it's about a lot more than smell. 
1/2( Tim Ochser )

Snakes on a Plane
The title of this film says it all, and there's little I can add. Samuel L. Jackson plays an FBI agent who's escorting a key witness from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mobster who wants him dead. Somewhere over the Pacific as the plane flies through a storm and malfunctions, hundreds of feral snakes are released from the cargo hold and into the passenger cabin striking panic and terror into the hearts of the innocent passengers. "Snakes on a Plane" regurgitates 70s-era disaster and horror pics. It's thin on plot and characters with scares bordering on farce. The scene in which passengers are introduced as they board the plane gives you an immediate sense of who's going to be snakebait. Highlights include a slick male passenger whose penis is attacked by a snake as he urinates in the toilet and a slumbering fat lady who is sexually aroused as the snake crawls up her body and goes for her eyes. Occasionally, you'll even get to see unsuspecting victims from the snakes' monochromatic point of view. Perhaps cobra-cam is the next big thing. "Snakes on a Plane" has a distinct B-grade feel to it and isn't intended to rattle too much in the your brain. 
1/2 ( Sherwin Das )

"Snakes on a Plane" enjoyed an extraordinary amount of pre-release hype thanks to the fact that a lot of bloggers out there liked the premise of the film, which is basically that a lot of deadly snakes are let loose on a crowded passenger plane. No metaphors, no subtext, just snakes on a plane, exactly like the trailer says. And in a mindless sort of way it's quite enjoyable. When Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) witnesses a murder by a notorious mafia leader, FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) persuades him to testify. So they commandeer the business class of a commercial flight and head back to Los Angeles. But the mafia release a mass of writhing, hissing, deadly CGI snakes onto the plane which have been drugged to make them as aggressive as possible. Okay, but that's enough about that. The story was only ever incidental to the title anyway. The action is relentless from start to finish and it's certainly amusing to watch the passengers get picked off by the snakes. But the film lacks any real venom. By the time the plane comes crash-landing into L.A. for the requisite happy ending, the only thing you remember is the film was something about snakes on a plane. 
( Tim Ochser )

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