Le Parfum D'Yvonne Review

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Three incurable romantics at a seaside resort wait for 'something' to happen.


Best known as the director of Monsieur Hire and The Hairdresser's Husband, Patrice Leconte again walks the fine line between sensuality, banality and melancholy in this leisurely adaptation of Patrick Modiano's novella, Villa Triste.

Set in the shimmering haze of a continental lakeside resort in the summer of 1962, the film tracks the elaborate courtship dance performed by three romantic idlers as they glide through a series of parties, motorised jaunts and hotel room assignations waiting for something to happen.

Rene (Marielle) is an aspiring young writer on the dodge from the Algerian war, Yvonne (Sandra Majani) dreams of becoming a famous actress, while Victor (Girardot) is an ageing homosexual desperate to transform his life into a successful artistic adventure.

If the plot's thin, that's part of the point. Leconte is more interested in the details (the perfume) of memory and desire than in the narrative incident, and expertly flashes backwards in time in his search for the perfect enchanted gesture. All of which can make the film a bit wearing, especially when the moments which Leconte's stand-in Rene so prizes (the wind blowing up a girl's dress to reveal she has no knickers on) verge on the most obvious kind of banal softcore fantasy.

What saves this in the end is the way it sidesteps a conventional narrative climax in an effort to concentrate on those magic moments where nothing happens but everything is expressed. To that extent, Victor is the real hero of the film. A consummate idler, his participation with Yvonne in a competition for the Houligant Automative Elegance Cup shows him at his best - magnificent, absurd, pompous. All in all, a fair summary of the film's tone.

Leconte is more interesed in the details of desire his characters experience than any real narrative incident. At once magnificent, absurd and pompous.