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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

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In the muck of 18th-century France, a child is born in the streets. This damned creature, Jean-Baptiste, grows to be a loveless idiot-savant, whose one skill is an acute sense of smell. He apprentices as a perfumer, but eventually resorts to murder in a mad quest to isolate and bottle the elusive aroma of pretty young girls. Patrick Suskind's novel has been adapted by German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) with an eye more toward dream-narrative than thriller. Tykwer films beautifully lush scenes designed to provoke an empathetic aroma. Naturally, we smell nothing, but the visual gambits nearly fool us. Similarly, the compulsive Jean-Baptiste, the animalistic foundling who knows pleasure only in the fleeting seconds of scent, is rendered nearly sympathetic by the intense, whippet-thin British stage actor Ben Whishaw. You'll need to have succumbed to this tale of perverse carnality somehow in order to find satisfaction in Perfume's last-reel set of olfactory and corporal consummations; if not, expect head-shaking, uneasy laughter. (AH)

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