Le Parfum d'Yvonne

**1/2

Reviewed by: The Dude

Based on Patrick Modiano's novel, Villa Triste, Le Parfum D'Yvonne centres around the love affair between Victor Chmara (Hippolyte Giradot) and the intriguing Yvonne (Sandra Majani) during the late Fifties. What begins as a flirtation in the lobby of a hotel soon blossoms into a summer romance that at least Victor, who experiences it again through a flashback, seems unable to forget.

Posing as a questionable member of the Russian aristocracy, but more likely a young man avoiding military service in Algeria, Victor joins Yvonne and her companion Dr Meinthe (Jean-Pierre Mareille), aka The Queen of Belgium (no, I'm not kidding), everywhere from sunlit drives through the country to late night romps in Geneva. Victor loves Yvonne, Dr Meinthe loves Yvonne and by the end of the film it is clear that Yvonne most definitely loves... Yvonne.

The combination of love, France, the summer and a romantic bygone era, where "women still wear gingham dresses," sounds like enough material to make this film something to watch, however - and you knew this was coming - it falls short in many areas.

The acting is convincing, despite the characters coming across as alienating French film stereotypes, passionate and withdrawn at the same time, while discussing vague concepts of human nature and love. The result is that most of the conversations between Yvonne and Victor are boring to listen to, making Meinthe's random outbursts infinitely more enjoyable.

Another pothole that writer/director Patrice Leconte gets stuck in is the soft porn love scenes, which seem to take up half the film and add nothing to the plot - apart from the first time they do it. Oh wait! And the second. And the third...

Initially, 40 or 50 years ago, the idea of naked bodies and sex in the cinema was controversially a European qualitative measure of artistic value, but now there should be enough storyline to fill those spaces so that viewers come away from a film with more than, 'She had a nice pair of...'

If you enjoy that kind of thing, Le Perfum d'Yvonne will not disappoint. For the rest, who prefer films that furnish plot with things like dialogue and action (not sexual), there's a little less on offer.

The scenery is beautiful, the cinematography equally impressive and everything apart from the story quite well done, but as far as holding interest, Leconte does an excellent job in ensuring that you don't really care about these bourgeois characters that... you're not supposed to care about.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2005
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A Fifties summer love story, French style.
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Director: Patrice Leconte

Writer: Patrice Leconte, based on Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano

Starring: Hippolyte Giradot, Sandra Majani, Jeanne-Pierre Mareille, Richard Bohringer, Paul Guers, Corinne Marchand

Year: 1994

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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