Indiana Daily Student

Online only: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (R)Grade:C+ EXTRAS: D

The nose doesn't always know

"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is a film that makes an unusual demand of its viewers: It asks them not only to watch with their eyes but also to use their noses for all the olfactory experiences contained within. A free scratch-and-sniff card would make this easier for some, but who really enjoys the scents of fish guts and patchouli?

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is rather reminiscent of Frankenstein's monster. He's not a walking corpse but rather a child left for dead in a Parisian fish market who has never understood the difference between right and wrong. Grenouille has a knack for scents both good and bad; he desires to inhale them all, and each is a new experience. His nasal fascination leads him to pursue a life of perfume alchemy. The only problem with this pursuit is that when he finds an exceedingly wondrous scent -- usually possessed by a beautiful woman -- Grenouille has no choice but to kill her. Soon after comes the long process of preservation, distilling and combining numerous scents to create the most potent of all perfumes so that Grenouille can earn the love and respect of France.

"Perfume" is a pitch-black fairy tale. Where "Pan's Labyrinth" could be considered dark, "Perfume" is the abyss. Grenouille demands no sympathy or respect, primarily because while his first "murder" was by accident, he soon becomes a serial killer with delusions of grandeur. While the story at times is fascinating in concept and visually magnificent, the film is spoiled by Whishaw, who lets his nose do most of the talking, and a severely miscast Dustin Hoffman, who plays a washed-up Italian perfumer.

Supplements are almost nonexistent. A brief 13-minute making-of lets director Tom Tykwer and the actors get their short talking-head segments about why they love the project so much. Other than that, there are previews for "Disturbia" and "Zodiac" -- the latter a far more interesting film with a non-romanticized serial killer yarn.

Visually and conceptually I was sold, but thanks to awkward performances and one of the most ridiculous endings ever, I smelled the shit more often than the roses.

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