Review: The Green Perfume
- CANNES 2022: Nicolas Pariser tries his hand at a spy comedy in the playful spirit of a comic book, but this perfect replica slides into autopilot once its initial pace has peaked
"Get used to not asking too many questions and not getting many answers", "We’re going to try to go as quickly as possible but we’re missing a few pieces of the puzzle." A fascinating filmmaker in terms of his intelligent, political, genre approach, as demonstrated by The Great Game [+see also:
film profile] and Alice and the Mayor [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Pariser
film profile], French director Nicolas Pariser has fully indulged his playful side in The Green Perfume, a spy comedy which perfectly imitates the classics whilst boasting a comic book spirit akin to Tintin - to give one example - and which is tinged with clearly stated humoristic intent yet careful not to slide too far into parody (The Pink Panther, Austin Powers, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies [+see also:
film profile], etc.). In formal terms, it’s a highly restrained entertaining work which sees its lead actors Vincent Lacoste and Sandrine Kiberlain having the time of their lives, and which was screened in the closing slot of the Directors’ Fortnight, unfolding within the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
"Mr. Rémi is asking whether we’re going to kill him tonight… Killing two actors from the the Comédie-Française on the same night would be tricky". One injection later, our reluctant hero Martin (Lacoste) wakes up at dawn in a taxi (pre-paid with 205 Euros on the meter) which is at a standstill opposite the morgue and learns from the TV in the bar where he tries to regain full consciousness that the national police force are actively searching for him because he’s suspected of murder. "They killed me… The Green Perfume…" It’s with these cryptic words, whispered into his ear, that Martin’s partner Vlad died on the spot the previous night, suffocating out of nowhere. But his final breaths don’t go unnoticed, and Martin is kidnapped immediately afterwards by sinister henchmen and taken to a huge, remote building in the Paris region where he’s interrogated by a highly distinguished representative of the obscure Volognie Republic (which advocates the downfall of European and American liberalism). Released but placed under discreet surveillance by the French Secret Service, our actor only has one lead to help exonerate him: the collection of original comic book drawings which adorned the walls of his overnight prison. Claire (Kiberlain), a comic book author with whom he crosses paths in a book shop, decides to help him unravel the trail."
On a bike in Paris, aboard a train with a mysterious envelope and a body in a cupboard, gunfire in the corridors of the European Commission in Brussels and a climactic event in a theatre in Budapest (where L’illusion Comique is being performed), all the while hunting down a dangerous prototype, tailing leads and learning about disappearances, double agents and coded messages… Every element of the spy genre is here, interpreted in faithful and original fashion by a feature film which isn’t short on humour nor a hint of romance, and where the "Green Perfume" organisation acts as "Spectre". However, once the bottle has been opened and the plot established at the end of some very well-paced twists and turns (and a lot of travelling around), the film becomes a mission like any other and continues on autopilot towards its resolution, with formal albeit futile perfection.
(Translated from French)
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