Precious Bodily Fluids

The Perfume of Yvonne

As unpredictable as tennis

As unpredictable as tennis

Without being an authority on all things French, The Perfume of Yvonne (or, Yvonne’s Perfume, or, Le parfum d’Yvonne) seems to be a very “French” sort of film; and not in the good kind of way. It has that fairly classic tragic structure perhaps most recently popularized in the French-derived musical Moulin Rouge. Beginning with a narrated voiceover from a depressed lover, the film follows the recent past of a passionate and doomed romance between an object and a subject, a banana and a monkey, a bribe and a politician: a woman and a man. The insane embrace of class elitism in this film is over-the-top, up there with the best of them. Victor’s aloofness is matched only by Yvonne’s complete flatness as a character. She is an image and nothing more; he is the one imagining, and nothing more. The camera enjoys watching them (her, really) in crowds, in public places, which apparently lends to a more dreamlike feel. The vibe is constantly that, to Victor and Yvonne, there is no one else who exists, no one else worth giving the time of day, and yet the camera remains an uncomfortable and sometimes strangely loud presence. This is not a cohesive film stylistically, and it’s empty thematically by virtue of its priority to viewer effect over content. The inevitable destiny of their “love” is a predictable tragedy for tragedy’s sake – except that it’s not really tragic at all. Yvonne’s abandoning of Victor discredits not only their affair but the film itself. But then what do you expect from a film with a line like: “It’s not just you. It’s also myself I drive mad.”

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This entry was published on October 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm. It’s filed under 1990s Cinema, French Film and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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