Senin, 30 Mei 2011

Patrice Leconte - Le Parfum d'Yvonne AKA Yvonne's Perfume (1994)

Based on the novel Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano, Patrick Leconte’s 1994 film ‘Yvonne’s Perfume’ represents a highpoint in his career to date, a delicious, spellbindingly erotic slice of nostalgia combining sensuous photography, a brilliant soundtrack and a trio of pitch-perfect performances. Less whimsical and slight than ‘The Hairdresser’s Husband’ (which Leconte wrote himself), ‘Yvonne’ doesn’t compromise any of that film’s brevity. Whereas in ‘Hairdresser’ one had the sense that Leconte was, at times, simply filling screen time with entertaining but ultimately extraneous characters and events, the narrative here is much more focused and contained and its culmination more dramatically satisfying.

An air of nostalgia permeates every scene. Leconte and Serra create an atmosphere so intense you can smell it (appropriate, given the title). In a stolen moment in the woods, Yvonne and Victor kiss for the first time, our view of them partly obscured by leaves and branches. There's the sound of distant birdsong and the couple's breathing. The gently undulating camera weaves a visual texture comprised as much from the things we can't see as the things we can, as much from silence as from music; the spaces between things and the things themselves.

For the leads, Hippolyte Girardot is quietly compelling as the narrator Victor Chmara. The narrow face, constant ironic half-smile and air of intellectual intensity mark him as a classically French anti-hero in the same vein as Marcel Herrand, who provided us with perhaps the definitive French screen villain as Lacenaire in ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’. Girardot’s performance never strikes a false note, laudable when you consider that his character is essentially a passive observer to the film’s events, and not a terribly sympathetic character – Chmara is basically a moneyed loafer, idling his time away reading magazines in the sun to avoid military service. It’s to Girardot’s great credit that he implies layers of depth to the young man, such that it becomes impossible for us to dismiss him out of hand.

Jean-Pierre Marielle is magnificent as the dandified Dr Meinthe, an elegant, outrageous, flamboyant homosexual, always beautifully dressed and causing a scene, tossing wine into faces, hurling insults and crockery and then, a moment later, apologising with immaculate courtesy to the wounded party. Like a character out of a Lawrence Durrell novel, Meinthe knows everyone and is the life of every party but seems to carry with him, amidst the superb bluster, an air of self-defeat, as if unable to overcome an earlier event in his life. Marielle’s performance is brilliant, imbuing the character with pathos and somehow hinting at this wounded history, the source of his self-destructive nature. He’s also at the centre of the film’s funniest scenes, collecting Victor from his boarding house using techniques more suited to a commando operation (introducing himself to the assembled elderly guests as “The Queen of Belgium”) or simply publicly insulting another homosexual (“Carlton, the greatest bitch in the region! They say you’re up to no good, old tart!”) and then clapping his hands twice and shouting, “L’addition, s’il vous plait,” with impeccable Gallic authority, oblivious to the upset he’s caused. The fact that this is delivered while wearing a canary yellow jacket, immaculate white shirt and ceruse handkerchief in the breast pocket should not be overlooked.

The utterly beautiful Sandra Majani is the titular Yvonne and, fittingly, brings an elusive, ephemeral air to the character that is quite beguiling. While she’s not without experience, Yvonne is – as seen through Victor’s eyes – an innocent in love and her relationship with Victor accordingly has all the tenderness and vulnerability of a first love affair. However the truth of her character is more complex; a fantasist, Yvonne yearns for a life beyond the small town she’s grown up in, but lacks the drive or ambition to achieve it on her own terms. “I’m not a committed actress,” she confesses to Victor, when he suggests they move to New York so she can seek stardom. In some ways Majani’s performance is hard to assess, in that at times it doesn’t seem as if she’s bringing any kind of character to Yvonne at all, yet this very transparency is entirely in keeping with Yvonne’s nature; she’s ultimately a pretty shallow girl – as Meinthe points out at near the film’s end, Yvonne only lives for the moment and, as her uncle puts it, is both lazy and “…provincial.” Her air of mystery, then, doesn’t actually hide anything but is, rather, a cultivated affectation to make her more alluring – a quality incredibly close to the simple self-consciousness that infects dozens of mediocre actors! I can’t tell conclusively whether this quality of slightly glazed pretence is deliberate on Majani's part or not. Given her previous status as a model and the fact that, to my knowledge, 'Yvonne' is her only film, I tend rather to think it's not (sorry). However, that doesn't negate the fact that she’s perfectly cast as Yvonne.
Spanish subs perfume de ivonne

no pass

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