Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Senses of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


I am made of blue sky and golden light and I will feel this way for another 15 seconds.
How about that sensual, insinuating orchestral score for the film adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s literary thriller PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER?
Director Tom Tykwer knows that music well–he composed it, writes Richard J. Wright of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. That’s yesterday’s edition, Jan. 1, 2007.
You can tell that Wright, like Tykwer, is a musician. Not that the piece was esoteric. But I wish I’d written it. I couldn’t have. I’m not a musician. But I tried anyway.
So there is this piece in today’s Boston Globe, as it touches upon director Tywker (and his co-composers) effort tocapture the essence of Suskind’s lush, ironic prose, and screenwriter Andrew Birkin‘s lush, ironic screenplay.
As the reporter of that story, I regret that I was unable to deliver only a cursory impression of the Tykwer hair (spikey/vertical), his nervous habits (styling product deficit? Beethoven audition later that day?), and his connection to the score (he done it, in collaboration with his usual collaborators.)
Go to the movie’s website and tell me if the score (and the film, should you see it) doesn’t work on you after you’ve fallen asleep.
I did speak to the lead actor, Ben Whishaw, who was recently cast in Todd Haynes’ I’M NOT THERE, a film about Bob Dylan, and Bernd Eichinger, the film’s producer, whose tenacity and passion for this extraordinary novel, had much to do with getting PERFUME to the screen after so many years in print.
Eichinger, who cowrote DOWNFALL, is now producing three more films, an adaptation of THE ELEMENTARY PARTICLES, based on the novel by Michel Houellebecq, a drama about the Baader-Meinhof gangwhich terrorized West Germany from the mid 1970s to mid 1980s,

The reviews for Perfume are as varied as readers’ impressions of the novel: loved it, hated it, didn’t get it:
Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times praised the look of the film, but says its tone is all over the place. Nathan Rabin of The Onion didn’t particularly like the film, he did acknowledge PERFUME’s power to get under one’s skin, describing as a “terrible, terrible film that everyone should see and will haunt me until the day I die.” The “Perfume Paradox,” he calls it–imperfect movies, disturbing movies, that you can’t stop thinking about.
Peter Sobcynski of Hollywood Bitchslap, whom I always trust to speak from his heart about films he delights in, expresses “giddy admiration” for PERFUME. If you’re on his wavelength about other movies, then you’ve got to see the film right now.
The usually genteel A.O. Scott of the New York Times sneers (“scratch ‘n’ sniff” – “Smell-O-Vision”) before administering to the director a 43rd St. skullfucking : “Whereas Mr. Süskind portrayed this condition in ripe, sarcastic prose, Mr. Tykwer’s method is one of stupefying literalism. Exploiting the lush, lurid tones of Frank Griebe’s cinematography, he rubs our noses in Grenouille’s world by assaulting our eyes with what he smells.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon