Based on a novel by Patrick Modiano ('Villa Triste'), "Le Parfum D'Yvonne" describes a summer affair between Victor (Hippolyte Giradot) and Yvonne (Sandra Majani). It is 1958, France is embroiled in a civil war in Algeria, the fighting, terrorism and political turmoil spilling across the Mediterranean into Francophone Europe. Victor - who poses as an émigré Russian aristocrat - is hiding in Switzerland to avoid conscription into the French army. He idles away the summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, renting a room in an elegant little hotel, spending his days hanging around the lounge of a more illustrious one. His entire life seems to be contained in a trunk full of film magazines.
Into his life comes the beautiful Yvonne. Her roots are hardly aristocratic, though she poses as a sophisticated young woman, aping the style of an English debutante while dreaming of a life as a film actress. She and Victor begin an affair.
Their time together, however, is moderated, invigorated, and fuelled by the outrageously camp Dr. Meinthe (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a lotus-eater who seems to provide some illicit medical services for one of the many sides in the Algerian conflict. He idles his life in dining out and posing.
It is beautifully filmed. Leconte has an almost voyeuristic style, observing the life of his characters. He plays with the elegance and style of the situation and exploits its erotic potential to the full. The characters are fundamentally bored and boring, seeking excitement and escape from the ennui into which they have subsided. Leconte exposes bodies, but the characters remain shrouded. If Yvonne's fragrance is elusive and ephemeral, so too is the past ... and future ... of her lover.
This is a visually intoxicating film, and Sandra Majani is delightful to look at. You do, however, feel that it has less substance than a hint of perfume. Enigmatic, erotic, entertaining, absorbing, yet it is not amongst Leconte's best. It lacks something, some quality to make the fragile narrative gel and take substance. The subtlety of the perfume remains just too diluted.
The DVD offers no extras - no background or interviews with actors or director, but then Leconte does not appear to be renowned for his interest in interviews or providing extras. Given the distance in time, some sort of background on the Algerian conflict might help viewers, particularly in English-speaking countries (or non-French-speaking ones). But visual and sound quality are excellent and the film is a joy to watch.
My only regret is that Patrice Leconte, the director and Sandra Majani, the co-star have not teamed up to make more of these delights.
I am delighted with this DVD release as I wore out my VHS copy some time back. Read more
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions