Director – Grégory Magne – 2019 – France – Cert. tbc – 100m
In Cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 21st
GuGuillaume (Grégory Montel) is a chauffeur. His boss Arsène (Gustave Kervern) is thoroughly fed up with him, so gives him a job with a known difficult customer Mademoiselle Walberg. Guillaume is currently trying to get 50/50 custody of his daughter, so needs his job. And must put up with any nonsense his client comes up with. Like throwing his cigarette packet out of the car window. Or insisting he help her change the hotel bedsheets because she doesn’t like the smell of the chambermaid’s perfume.
The reclusive Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos) is a ‘nose’. She combines smells to create perfumes and had a stint with the Dior company before her career took a wrong turn. These days, all her agent can get her is recreating the smells of caves or making the fumes from unpleasant factories smell nice. But she longs to make perfumes again.
This is a stylish and charming movie with unusual, olfactory subject matter. You can’t smell in movies, so this element is instead conjured by verbal description. In a trip to a cave – the real cave, not the duplicate nearer the highway for which she must compose the smells, Anne feels, rubs and sniffs cave interior surfaces, getting Guillaume to write everything she says in a notebook.
From initially being her dogsbody, he slowly becomes her trusted confidant and collaborator. It’s a sort of odd couple story, not exactly romance, not exactly friendship, not exactly working relationship, which draws the viewer in. It’s a tale which traverses car journeys, train journeys, hotel rooms, caves, shop interiors, factory premises, hospitals and ore, You wouldn’t think either the chauffeur or his unusual client would be great company for a hundred minutes worth of movie, but great company they prove to be.
The film also finds time to show something of the chauffeur’s relationship with his ten year old daughter, very much a sideshow to the main narrative event, but one which breaks it up nicely in narrative terms. The whole thing is also a welcome introduction to the idea of a ‘nose’. And the performances by its two leads, like the film itself, prove strangely beguiling.
Perfumesis out in the UK In Cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 21st.