Yvonne’s Perfume (1994)


Yvonne’s Perfume Storyline

Summer on Lake Geneva in the ’50s finds Girardot’s would-be writer hiding out from military service and the Algerian War. For a youthful wastrel of enigmatic means, the holiday atmosphere keeps the rest of the world at bay, perfectly setting the scene for a moment of sensual adventure when into his life walks glacial beauty Yvonne (Majani), and fez-wearing associate, the mysterious Dr Meinthe (Marielle). Erotic fascination and a giddy whirl of socialising fill the days that follow, all of it undercut by the realisation of life’s fleeting evanescence.—Time Out

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Yvonne’s Perfume Movie Reviews

taste of Yvonne

Adaptation of a novel by Patrick Modiano, “le parfum d’Yvonne” represents another Patrice Leconte’s success. To make this film, the director drew from several elements dating from his previous movies. Thus, the doctor Meinthe (excellent Jean-Pierre Marielle) is very close to Michel Mortez in “Tandem” (1987) while Yvonne’s sensual beauty evokes Mathilde’s in “the hairdresser’s wife” (1990). So, Leconte turned a novel into a personal movie.

This movie tells a past love story that brings on a deep nostalgia due to gorgeous summer pictures enhanced by a luminous photography. It’s almost a poetic and dreamlike work. And however, this happiness is too good to be true. Indeed, behind this idle and free life, hide zones of shadows. Victor Chmara claims to Yvonne that he is a wealthy Russian earl but he’s nothing of the sort. He’s just a young man who fled Paris so as to avoid his military enlistment (we are in 1958 and at this time, it is the Algerian war). Moreover, he wants to go to the USA but Yvonne refuses because Victor can’t speak English. So, she leaves him and there’s this famous sentence that says: love stories, in general don’t have a happy ending. It is true.

Leconte built his movie on a long flashback and he alternates the story with two of the main characters’ current situation. From this moment, we can take down a strong contrast between the shiny pictures of a celebrated and distant summer and the dark photography to connote a dull present that shows the main characters’ distress and bitterness (especially the doctor Meinthe).

A beautiful and bitter movie. If you are a fan of Patrice Leconte, don’t miss this one.

The distraction of beauty.

1958 and the summer of secrets haunt Victor as his memories dwell into the lustful past of Yvonne’s passion. They are accompanied by the eccentric gay Doctor and all together they hide secrets. Director Leconte never reveals in detail the meaning of their secrets but hints on them, allowing the viewer to work that little bit harder. The main interest is the sexual passion the camera has with beautiful Yvonne, a woman of leisure that distracts Victor and the viewer.

Yvonne The Terrible Beauty

What can you say about a film by a leading director that flopped at the box office and whose leading lady was never heard from again (shades of Les Portes de la nuit and Nathalie Nattier) yet has drawn a half dozen sympathetic comments on this very board. For me the twin selling points were Patrice Leconte and Jean-Pierre Marielle and neither let me down. A friend in France whose judgment I value warned me against it and although I could see where she was coming from I’m still glad I saw it. In some respects Leconte has produced the ultimate valentine to lost love and shot it in a hazy, wistful, slightly unreal style the way we tend to remember lost time. The handful of linking scenes featuring the narrator looking back to 1958 are shot in stark, sombre tones contrasting wildly with the pastel palette of the flashbacks set in and around Lake Geneva. The dreamlike quality is present from the start; in a dream there are no formal introductions or elaborate establishing of relationships, they are just there, you meet someone and instantly know them or know all you want or need to know to fall in love. As others have said on this board Leconte withholds information about all the three principals but even with a story as leisurely paced as this one we don’t really care. The eroticism whilst more blatant than in say, The Hairdresser’s Husband, is still light years short of being even soft porn but is in keeping with the dreamlike quality throughout. On balance a fine film which did not deserve its neglect.