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In this extremely French but quite enjoyable comedy-drama, comic actor Grégory Montel, basically a smiley labrador in human form, plays Guillaume, a divorced, middle-aged Parisian chauffeur. He is striving to make enough money to upgrade to a better apartment so he can have his tween-aged daughter (Zelie Rixhon) stay overnight. Guillaume can’t afford to lose his job, as it is already hanging by a thread due to his having earned several points on his licence for speeding. That makes enduring the hauteur of his latest client, professional “nose” or fragrance designer Mademoiselle Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos), all the more challenging given she expects him to not only drive and carry her luggage, but also help her change sheets at hotels because she can’t stand the odour of the “clean” smelling detergent they’ve used, and take notes for her while she analyses the smell of a cave that needs to be copied for a client.
From this cutesy meeting – a predictably antagonistic first encounter – a friendship develops that, admirably for a change, doesn’t end up in quite the place you might expect by the end. In fact, that’s just one of several refreshing surprises. Others include the finely observed writing that limns the relationships between the main duo and between them and supporting characters, such as Guillaume and his smart, observant kid, or Anne and her avaricious agent (Pauline Moulène).
But the most interesting thing about the film is its well-researched glimpse into the smell business, a multibillion-dollar industry that spans not just the designing of high-end perfumes for fashion houses, but also efforts to disguise the stink of factory emissions and scents to pump into supermarkets to make people buy more stuff. In passing, Anne mentions that she designed Dior’s J’adore, whose original formulation is actually the work of master perfumer Calice Becker. This film feels a bit like a tribute to talents such as Becker and Christine Nagel (formerly of Jo Malone, now at Hermès) who acted as an adviser for the movie. That attention to detail adds a welcome layer of complexity, making the whole thing a bit like a visit to the perfume department at Galeries Lafayette before a taxi ride on a rainy day in Paris.
Perfumes is in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Perfumes review – admirably refreshing French comedy-drama | Film