December 27, 2006

Interview. Tom Tykwer.

Most filmmakers that I know, and actually most film critics that I respect, for them, film really has a drug-like dimension. And it is something that to a degree also makes us these obsessive collectors. I very much relate to Grenouille as a collector in the most traditional meaning and, of course, in the most obsessive, compulsive meaning - that he just wants to have, he wants to know every scent existing. I don't know about you, but I know you're going to Italy to go to some weird silent film festival, so I totally know that you know what I'm talking about. It's about picking out flavors that you haven't had yet. The problem with us, of course, being these film nerds that we are and having seen so many films, is that it gets more and more interesting and you get more and more ambitious to pick one of those flowers you haven't had yet in your collection. I totally understand that this is the similarity between Grenouille and at least film lovers and filmmakers.

Updated through 1/3.

If you find yourself, while watching Perfume, relating to the murderer a little more than you're comfortable dealing with, Tom Tykwer may have an explanation for you in Sean Axmaker's interview.

Related: AO Scott is not alone in his mention of John Waters's "divinely vulgar Polyester, filmed in 'Odorama' and originally released in 1981 with a scratch-and-sniff strip that was handed out to theater patrons to provide a smell track." Tykwer, he writes in the New York Times, "asks to be taken much more seriously than Mr Waters ever has, which has the unfortunate, predictable effect of making his new movie all the more ridiculous." The crux, of course, lies in what to make of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille's gift: "Whereas [novelist Patrick] Süskind portrayed this condition in ripe, sarcastic prose, Mr Tykwer's method is one of stupefying literalism."

In what'll be rather a shock to many, Michael Koresky, writing at indieWIRE, compares Perfume, "a brilliantly designed retreat into an imagined past," to Pan's Labyrinth and finds the latter wanting. "Perfume, for all its ethereal whimsy, feels the infinitely more humane film. This is even its central focus: an allegory about human nature, the desperate need to be loved, and more problematically (though it's a terrifically gonzo gambit) the inherent destruction in artistic creation-miraculously Tykwer makes it work, by heightening and overloading all the viewer's senses at once."

Tykwer, producer Bernd Eichinger and fellow screenwriter Andrew Birkin "have faithfully adapted the plot but willfully missed the point of the story," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "The shame is that as a story about a monster, it had a lot to say about humanity. As a story about a guy with a passion for virgin scents, it really doesn't say anything at all."

"With the help of [Ben] Whishaw's extraordinary performance, and a heavily allegorical climax that is so extraordinary and, if you haven't read the book, so unexpected, Tykwer nearly pulls it off," writes Andrew O'Hehir, who intersperses snippets of a conversation on the phone with the director throughout his review. At the very least, "Tykwer is one of contemporary cinema's great perfectionists, and his re-creation of 18th-century Paris, along with Grasse, the famous 'perfume capital' of Provence, is nothing short of amazing."

"[T]he olfactory theme is pursued with costumed gravitas and whispered awe," writes Ed Halter in the Voice. "Despite dealing a few unintentionally silly moments, director Tom Tykwer (best known for the rave-era novelty Run, Lola, Run) avoids whimsy, opting instead for a dead-serious brand of magic realism."

The film is "just an excuse for Tykwer to wallow in harlequin muck - sometimes thrilling but mostly tacky," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant - before he really gets angry at it.

"It's a film you can wallow in. Marie Antoinette seems like an Adam and the Ants video by comparison," writes Nicholas Barber in the Independent. "But its emotional deadness makes it a bit like a real perfume. It's a sensory treat, but it doesn't take long to fade away."

"Tykwer has woven a darkly unique fable that offers audiences, if they dare, the opportunity to come along for a most intriguing ride," enthuses Kim Voynar at Cinematical; she talks with Tykwer, too.

The Guardian's Stuart Jeffries profiles Whishaw, the newcomer who plays Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.

For Time Out, Chris Tilly talks with Tykwer and Whishaw.

James Crawford talks with Tykwer for Reverse Shot.

Update, 12/29: For the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Sara Schieron talks with Tykwer.

Update, 12/30: Stephen Applebaum interviews Tykwer for the Independent.

Update, 1/1: "I could never imagine myself doing a film without doing the music - or at least being involved in the writing of the music," Tykwer tells the Chicago Tribune's Richard Knight Jr.

Update, 1/3: Brian Brooks introduces indieWIRE's interview with Tykwer, which wraps with a list of his 30 all-time favorite films.

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Posted by dwhudson at December 27, 2006 10:38 AM