Perfumes (M) - 100 minutes
Perfumes is a gently paced, delightfully nuanced French comedy about a woman with a nose for fragrances and her chauffeur.
I speak of Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos) and Guillaume Favre (Gregory Montel).
Having been employed by Dior, she created some of the world’s most popular perfumes, including J’adore.
But now she works for an assortment of contract clients, often trying to find ways to mask unfavourable smells.
She has a prickly relationship with her agent, Jeanne (Pauline Moulene), who negotiates the deals for her.
Fundamentally, Walberg is a loner … a diva … temperamental and often viewed as cold and distant.
Favre is a separated father of a nine-year-old girl, about to turn 10, Lea (Zelie Rhixon).
Since September 2006, he has worked as a chauffeur for a firm called Elite Driver, run by Arsene Pelissier (Gustave Kervern).
Recently, Pelissier was about to let Favre go because he has run up a series of speeding tickets.
But the latter pleaded to retain his job because he is in a court battle to secure custody of his daughter every other week and that involves having to secure a larger flat.
Pelissier relented and gave Favre his next assignment with Walberg, without informing him that she had already refused three other chauffeurs.
That’s because she is not easy to deal with and quite demanding.
In the very early stages of their relationship Walberg not only expects Favre to carry her bags and heavy suitcases to the car.
She instructs him not to smoke (either before or during the time that he is in her company), help her change the sheets on hotel beds where she stays and tell clients who she’s driven to see that she doesn’t want to meet with them.
All of these are expectations without a simple “please” or “thank you”.
Little wonder then that Favre doesn’t know what hit him.
Regardless, Walberg prevails upon Pelissier for Favre to be her only chauffeur … and needing the money, Favre is left with no choice.
At the same time, he is trying to navigate his relationship with his daughter.
But the longer Favre works with Walberg, the more is revealed about her and a greater understanding between them develops.
Perfumes has been beautifully written and sensitively put together by Gregory Magne.
The story develops nicely and is well worth sticking with.
The performances are first rate.
Gregory Montel is excellent as the chauffer trying to keep it all together. As good as the delivery of his lines is, it is his facial expressions and body movements that contribute greatly to his offering.
So, too, Emmanuelle Devos, who slips comfortably into the role of “the nose”, often presenting as awkward or uncomfortable. As the movie progresses, we get to understand the “hit” her character has taken.
I also appreciated the “rough diamond” showing of Gustave Kervern as the owner of the limousine service and the setting that his meetings with Favre took place.
Pauline Moulene holds her own as Walberg’s agent, not afraid of standing up to her client, while Zelie Rhixon is plausible as Favre’s daughter.
I was also conscious of the mood music that helped portray what was going on at the time, so plaudits to Gaetan Roussel.
Perfumes is a small movie with heart.
Rated M, it scores a 7½ out of 10.