Monday, November 2, 2009
The Perfume of Yvonne (1994) ★★★★
Director Patrice Leconte turns the heat up to eleven in this steamy, sensual memoir you won’t soon forget. A young grifter-in-training (Hippolyte Girardot) falls in with the idle rich who summer on Lake Geneva, and along the way becomes involved with an aging effeminate dandy (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and his stunning young protégé (the delectable Sandra Majani).
The trio spends their relaxing days lounging in sunny lakeside cafes and going on leisurely drives in the country, but soon the romantic sparks between Girardot and Majani ignite a raging fire of passion. The couple begins to secretly meet, and Leconte presents their slow, sensual lovemaking with a surprising and breathtaking explicitness.
It is tempting to say that this is not just a film about sex, but that’s not really true. Perfume of Yvonne IS a film about sex, specifically the mind altering effect of sex, and unapologetically so. All the subplots and questions Leconte has raised about the mysterious natures of these characters pale in importance as the intense eroticism of Girardot and Majani dominate the storyline.
And it is in these dizzyingly seductive scenes that we feel we are finally seeing the true natures of these characters; their outer pretentions having fallen away along with their expensive designer clothing. But Lecounte has a few more surprising twists in store for us, and by now, we are glad to go along and see where this winding road leads. This is a film that amuses, titillates, thrills and haunts; saved from perfection only by an ending that is, well, a bit much.
Unfortunately, Sandra Majani never made another film, but at least we have this one to remember her by. And what a memory it is.
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