A delicate adaptation by Patrice Leconte of a beautiful novel by Patrick Modiano, unfairly shunned when it was released in theaters.
During the summer of 1958, Victor, a young Frenchman, to escape conscription at the time of the Algerian war, took refuge in a boarding house on the shores of Lake Geneva, claiming to be Count Chmara, a Russian emigrant . It is there that he meets Yvonne Jacquet, a young beginner actress accompanied by a Great Dane and Doctor René Meinthe, an eccentric old homosexual…
What remains today of this summer of the year 1958?
Yvonne’s Perfumereleased in March 1994, a faithful adaptation of sad villaa novel by Patrick Modiano awarded in 1976 by the Bookstore prices, is directed by Patrice Leconte, four years after The Husband of the hairdresser, with which it has certain points in common: the theme of a sad story of absolute love, a delicate sensuality, a narration in voice over by the male character , a long flashback inserted into a loop opening and closing to a close-up of Victor’s face lit by flames. An intriguing plan that will return, several times, whose meaning will only be revealed at the end of the film. This “family resemblance” between the two films is further emphasized by the contribution of a team in which we find the same faithful collaborators of Patrice Leconte, in particular Ivan Maussion, artistic director of 22 of his films, the director of photography Eduardo Serra , and editor Joëlle Hache.
Yvonne’s Perfumealthough it did not make enough admissions to cover all the production costs, yet has nothing to envy to the aesthetics of this other film, The hairdresser’s Husbandselected for the Best Film Award to the Caesars and the Best Foreign Film Award at the BAFTA Awards, and hailed by the
Louis Delluc Prize (ex-aequo with The Little Criminal by Jacques Doillon). With a tone less charged with emotion, it faithfully reflects the work of Patrick Modiano, a writer of feelings and emotions, often reputed to be unsuitable, which is confirmed by the fact that, despite his success in bookstores, only five of his thirty novels have inspired filmmakers.
The queen of the Belgians is me!
Yvonne’s Perfume takes advantage of the remarkable performance of Jean-Pierre Marielle in one of his most dramatic roles, with that of Monsieur de Sainte Colombe in Tous les matins du monde (Alain Corneau, 1991). He composes a character who tries to mask his anxiety about aging with whimsical and provocative attitudes. Patrice Leconte will place him again at the head of the poster of his next film, Les Grands Ducs (1996) and will give him a small role in 2014 in the forgettable One hour of tranquility.
Hyppolite Girardot, twenty years after the start of his acting career, plays his first big role here with a restrained interpretation of Victor. It is impossible, on the other hand, to remain insensitive to the luminous beauty of Sandra Majani who, after appearing briefly, under the name of Sandra Extercatte, in Alberto Express (Arthur Joffé, 1990), Cold Moon (Patrick Bouchitey, 1990) and in another film by Patrice Leconte, Tango, in 1993, will never appear on the screens again. We find, in secondary roles, Richard Bohringer, Paul Guers and Corinne Marchand.
For the delicacy of its staging, the beauty of its photography and its sets, the acting of the actors and the original composition for piano and strings by Paul Estève (his first composition for a feature film before he wrote the music of three other films by Patrice Leconte), Yvonne’s Perfume deserved this reissue, the first on Blu-ray, released alongside two other films by the filmmaker, The Hairdresser’s Husband and The Grand Dukes.
Yvonne’s Perfume (89 minutes) and its supplements (12 minutes, not including the film’s audio commentary) fit on a Blu-ray BD-50, housed in a case not supplied for the test.
The animated and musical menu offers the film in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono audio format.
A DVD edition is available, with the same content.
Interview with Patrice Leconte (12′, Rimini Éditions, 2022), conducted by Frédéric-Albert Lévy. “Le Parfum d’Yvonne had an insufficient number of admissions, but I really like this film,” says Patrice Leconte, of his first film with Jean-Pierre Marielle, “with this beautiful Dutch actress who disappeared from circulation and this perfume by Patrick Modiano”. He expresses two regrets: not having taken up the title of the novel, Villa triste, and “the calamitous poster, (…) sinister”. He likes, with his unsaid, the “modianesque vagueness” and maintains that the characters do not need to be “anchored in reality”. One can, he says, about the Concours d’Élégance, “be a bit sneering when making films, make fun of everything, (…) if there remains a real and sincere form of benevolence”. “The feeling of love also had to be openly carnal,” he adds to justify the love scenes.
Film commentary by Patrice Leconte
(Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 2000, taken from the DVD M6 Video edition). The idea of adapting Modiano’s novel came from Olivier Barrot and producer Thierry de Ganay. The adaptation remains faithful to the model, “the only phenomenal freedom being to make René Meinthe a man of Jean-Pierre Marielle’s age”. He wanted, for the role of Yvonne, a young unknown, “bright and normal” and chose Sandra Majani, a model with whom he had shot a few commercials. He wanted a film “beautiful to see (…) caressing”. The director comments on the sequences he likes and others, less inspired, some “too aesthetic”, others “a little soft”, the love scenes, “nice to see, difficult to shoot”, the game of the actors, his “procedures”, the fittings in the studio, the cuts made during the editing, the music of Paul Estève “who manages to give the film lyricism and mystery”.
A useful and pleasant commentary, made six years after the shooting.
The transfer in high definition (2.35:1, 1080p, AVC) brings to the previous edition, a 2004 Lancaster DVD, a clear gain in sharpness, a refinement of the grain which only occasionally remains thick in a few shots in low light, and a delicate color grading adjustment. A transfer that borders on perfection!
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound (and not stereo as the press release indicates) reproduces the dialogues and the atmosphere with impeccable clarity and with finesse the rich musical accompaniment of Paul Estève.
Image credits: © Lambart Productions, Zoulou Films
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DVDFr | Le Parfum d’Yvonne: the complete Blu-ray review