3.5 out of 5 stars
(French: Les Parfums)
Over these COVID-influenced years in the cinemas, two things have happened to many independent films. They have either been lost in the pool of releases that have been sent directly to streaming services, while others have merely been shelved for just the right time to set them loose on the public. The examples are too many to mention, but the French film Perfumes (Les Parfums) falls into the latter category.
This quaint comedy will draw you into its delightful cast and story like the light and subtle essence of the magical scents that the title conveys. Unexpectedly, this tale of the fickle nature of the perfume industry begins with a struggling chauffeur named Guillaume Favre (Grégory Montel). He is trying to hold onto his job as a driver. At the same time, he juggles the legal issues around maintaining partial custody of his teenage daughter. Even though Guillaume is on the verge of being fired, he is given one last chance with one of the most challenging clients for the agency, Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos).
As one of the leading influencers within the perfume world, she has come to treat her drivers with contempt and has unique requests for them. Even though she finds Guillaume difficult at first, their working relationship quickly burgeons into a friendship. Anne has fallen on difficult times since some of her skills as a ‘nose’ within the industry have been hampered over the years. As she attempts to make her way back into the good graces of the fragrance game, she begins to rely on her driver even more. Meanwhile he tries to do all he can to keep his job and meet the demands of maintaining custody of his daughter.
“No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory.” – Coco Chanel
There is something within the quote from Coco Chanel that manages to capture the essence of this endearing cinematic tale. It can be hard to put the finger on what it was about this story that manages to capture the imagination, but it can be found in the unseen things. One could credit the undeniable, yet subtle chemistry of the lead actors or the sexual desire never quite acted upon. Another element is the love expressed by a father who is doing all he can to reach into the world of his ever-changing teen. Still, it could be how writer/director Grégory Magne introduces the audience to a not seen world, but smelt in a visual medium. Through this combination of ingredients, the whole of the film turns into a beautifully sophisticated and engrossing experience.
Reel Dialogue: What is it about a scent?
Perfumes manages to show the unassuming power of the sense of smell. What is it about fresh cut grass, the wisps of familiar fragrances of a loved one’s clothing or the memories that come from a hand soap from your youth? The sense of smell is a beautiful gift that adds a sensual layer to life that makes us appreciate the unseen joys of life.
It may surprise you to know that this scented side of the human experience permeates the words of the Bible. From the aroma of burnt offerings to the continual reminder of spices to the word pictures of believers being a fragrance to God, the ability to smell is a powerful force. One that is credited to God in creating all creatures who have been blessed with the ability to take in the scents of this world. The abilities of the nose may seem to be a simple thing. Yet, next time you are able to smell the food being prepared for dinner or are reminded of a time gone by because of a familiar scent, this is an excellent time to thank God for this wonderful gift
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2