Blu-ray: For Fans Only
3 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: October 25th, 2007
Movie Release Year: 2006
Release Country: Germany
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (German Import)

Review Date May 11th, 2008 by
  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the German Blu-ray release of 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.' As of this writing, this movie has not been announced for release in the United States -- the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by Paramount, which currently has not yet revealed its future Blu-ray release schedule.

    We have previously published a different review of the HD DVD German Import edition of 'Perfume.'

    Note that this import disc is not region-coded and will play in any Blu-ray player. For more information about importing BD discs, visit the Blu-ray imports thread in our forums area.

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  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the German Blu-ray release of 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.' As of this writing, this movie has not been announced for release in the United States -- the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by Paramount, which currently has not yet revealed its future Blu-ray release schedule.

    We have previously published a different review of the HD DVD German Import edition of 'Perfume.'

    Note that this import disc is not region-coded and will play in any Blu-ray player. For more information about importing BD discs, visit the Blu-ray imports thread in our forums area.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray 50GB Dual-Layer
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
    Length:147
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):2.35:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    German DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions: German Subtitles
    Special Features: Commentary Tracks
    Featurettes
    Bios
    Trailers
    Special Features presented in German
    Movie Studio: Highlight
    Release Date: October 25th, 2007

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

Originally published in 1985, Patrick Suskind's international bestseller "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has been passed over by a variety of filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, and the late Stanley Kubrick. Each director developed their own cinematic adaptation, only to walk away with their hands in the air. Kubrick even famously declared the novel "unfilmable". But in 2006, German director Tom Tykwer ('Run Lola Run,' 'The Princess and the Warrior) thought otherwise and finally committed Suskind's twisted take on obsession to celluloid.

The film tells the tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), an orphan born in the fish markets of 18th Century France and gifted with an inhuman sense of smell. He can identify the source of any scent, recreate perfumes on a whim, and trail individual human pheromones through the dense stench of the streets. When this oddity of nature accidentally kills a young woman, he finds himself enthralled by the aroma of her death and sets out to create a perfume that will capture the unique odor. Attaching himself to a wealthy perfumer named Giuseppe (Dustin Hoffman), Jean-Baptiste ultimately embarks on a dark journey that leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

Narrated with grace by John Hurt, 'Perfume' is a dark fairytale in every sense of the term. Tykwer injects a languid emotional core into the story despite Jean-Baptiste’s disassociation from the rest of humanity. While the film's unique tone is enhanced by Twyker's fantastic cinematography and lush imagery, the understated performances of his lead actors are what anchor the film’s third-act flights of fancy in reality. Even his supporting actors help to create a convincing sense of dread that evokes emotions in the viewer despite Jean Baptiste's disregard for societal norms.

Critical reaction to 'Perfume' upon its theatrical release was split down the middle -- some adored the story's unique premise, while others found it utterly ridiculous, especially the film's fanciful third act. For me, the narration made it immediately clear that I was watching a fairytale, and I found everything that followed easier to swallow as a result. While some have found the film's imagery uncomfortably stark and disturbing, I only found it unsettling. The violence depicted is actually quite brief and contained -- instead, it's the tonal darkness of the story that really made me squirm in my seat.

To be sure, 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' isn't a film for everyone. It often struggles to find its own identity, and viewers less comfortable with suspending their disbelief are likely to find it impossible to immerse themselves in the story. Personally, I also took issue with the film's brief inclusion of Dustin Hoffman. Although his performance is clearly meant to add levity, and it generally hits the right notes, I found his faux-French accent overly distracting. Considering the fact that other actors in the film (Alan Rickman chief among them) seem to make no effort to disguise their own accents, I don't know why Hoffman didn't maintain his natural voice.

In the end, 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' certainly isn't for everyone, and a good number of viewers are likely to give up soon after it begins its bizarre third act. However, fans of films like 'American Psycho' should have an easier time embracing the madness on quiet display. For my own part, the increasingly unsettling tone of this film grabbed me from the opening birth of Jean Baptiste and refused to let go until his journey was complete.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray 50GB Dual-Layer
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:147
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    German DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    German Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Commentary Tracks
    Featurettes
    Bios
    Trailers
    Special Features presented in German
    Movie Studio: Highlight
    Release Date: October 25th, 2007

Video Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

Visually identical to the German HD DVD import, 'Perfume' is presented with a striking 1080p/VC-1 that both thrilled and engaged my eyes, boasting vivid colors, strong reds and blues, and a stable, well saturated palette (the roses in the perfumer's shop look like a painting). Fine object detail is equally remarkable -- just look at the crowd in the opening scene and the long shots of the cities. Every individual in the streets is clearly distinguishable and sharp. The black levels are deep and add a nice amount of dimension to what could have been a flat, shadowy picture. Most impressive of all is the texture detail. In facial close-ups, each actor's pores, and every strand of hair is crystal clear. Shots that follow the trail of a scent are also rendered wonderfully -- in fact, they're so detailed at times that you almost feel as if you've been put within the mindset of Jean Baptiste himself.

As strong as this transfer is, I did notice a couple of lingering (albeit inconsequential) issues. First off, there's some occasional color banding present around unfocused edges (look at the close-up of the child's finger in the orphanage). Secondly, some random shots of darkness have a slight cloud of artifacting (watch the night sky when Jean Baptiste stares across the water at the city). I should emphasize that these issues only pop up a handful of times, and they hardly mar this otherwise gorgeous transfer. All things considered, Blu-ray importers looking for an early copy of 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' won't be let down by the visuals on this stunning German import.

Audio Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' features a German dubbed mix and an original English language track, both of which are presented using standard DTS-HD 5.1 surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5 Mbps). Contrary to other reports, there are no DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio tracks. Although the menus on this HD DVD import are in German, switching to the English language mix is a cinch. Simply select "Einstellungen" from the main menu, choose "Englisch DTS-HD 5.1," and then click "Ohne Untertitel" to turn off the default German subtitles. Now click on "Film Ab" to watch the movie.

While the film's stellar video transfer enabled me to further immerse myself in 18th century France, this audio package did not. To be fair, there's isn't anything technically wrong with this mix -- it's just dominated by Hurt's narration and the film's musical score. The surround channels aren't used to their potential, dynamics are weak, and the soundscape is relatively quiet.

On the bright side, the score's instrumentation is warm and well prioritized, dialogue is crisp (even during soft whispers), and channel movement is subtle. Here's hoping that the eventual US high-def release builds on these strong suits with a lossless DTS HD Master Audio track and delivers a more immersive overall aural experience.

(Note the audio package featured on this Blu-ray import is identical to that which was included on the HD DVD import.)

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

This Blu-ray import comes packed with extras -- all of which are presented in German, the native language of the film's director and production staff. There are a few English-language comments scattered throughout the featurettes, but the real meat of the disc (the commentaries) is presented with English subtitles.

Included are three commentary tracks (each uses Dolby Digital 2.0) -- the first with director Tom Tykwer, the second with production designer Uli Hanisch and her assistant Kai Karla Koch, and the third with director of photography Frank Griebe and editor Alexander Berner. Beyond the commentaries, there's a twelve minute behind the scenes featurette, forty minutes worth of crew interviews, a group of text-based bios for the actors involved, as well as six trailers for other German Blu-rays including the 'Resident Evil' series and the 'Fantastic Four' films.

Since we review import discs based on their value for English-language audiences, this supplemental package doesn't earn any stars, but if you do speak German, this would seem to be a strong offering, so adjust your own personal score accordingly.

Final Thoughts

'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' is a fascinating and surreal exploration of a demented mind. Fans of the film are sure to be entranced by the visuals on this German import Blu-ray disc, but they won't be as easily impressed by the fairly standard DTS audio tracks. It doesn't help that all of the supplemental features are presented in German and add little relative value for an English speaking importer. Still, unless you're a huge fan of the film (or happen to be fluent in German), I recommend waiting to see if a domestic Blu-ray version is in the cards for Paramount before rushing to drop any substantial cash on this import.

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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray 50GB Dual-Layer
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:147
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    German DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/1.5Mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    German Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Commentary Tracks
    Featurettes
    Bios
    Trailers
    Special Features presented in German
    Movie Studio: Highlight
    Release Date: October 25th, 2007

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