Tag Archives: Tom Tykwer

Challenge Week 45: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Let’s get the obvious out of the way upfront. This movie is gorgeous. Even when what’s on the screen is dirt and filth (like much of the beginning, set in the poorest areas of a French fishing village), it’s beautifully lit, shot, and framed. The music, too, is a high point, bringing an epic feel to what is actually a fairly repugnant story. I should expect nothing less from Tom Tykwer, whose films are consistently full of beauty and use music very well, from this classic-esque score to the pumping techno of Run Lola Run.

The story involves Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a child abandoned at birth by his mother but survived the orphanage despite being an outcast for his weird superpowered smell. An encounter with a beautiful redhead led Grenouille to make it his life’s mission to capture and preserve women’s scent, which he finally learns to do through a process that involves…killing them.


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Scorecard: July-October 2012

Four months at a whack here, but really, I haven’t been watching all that much, thanks to sleeping almost all of the time and lacking the attention span for more than 30-minute TV shows when I AM awake (see why here). Interestingly, all of my “loved” films this time around are 2012 films. That’s strange and weird to me, especially since I watched a few “unassailable” classics, but I’m being honest about how I felt about them at the time I watched them. Also, there’s a preponderance of new releases anyway since going to the theatre tends to keep me awake and engaged a bit more right now than watching films at home, so I’ve watched fewer films at home than usual.

What I Loved

Cloud Atlas

I’d heard everything from “mind-blowing masterpiece” to “vapid, messy drivel” about this film coming out of TIFF, so I had no idea what to expect when I went into it. As you may have guessed, I’m far closer to the “mind-blowing masterpiece” side of the scale; in fact, as of right now, it’s sitting atop my Top 2012 Films list. I read the book a couple of months ago in preparation, and I’m sure that affected how I received the film – I didn’t actually love the book, largely because I felt like it was more of an exercise in pastiche, more interested in proving David Mitchell’s chops at imitating different styles of writing and less interested in actually making meaningful connections between the different stories. The movie still has the different styles, but less pronounced (because it’s difficult to get such things as “19th century journal” and “epistolary novel” to translate to film stylistically), and the stories are all intercut with each other, a brilliant way to strengthen and highlight the thematic tissue connecting the stories. Putting the music of the Cloud Atlas Sextet front and center lends the film a symphonic quality heightened by the editing to create something that as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is exactly what I was missing from the book. It’s rare to say, even for a non-book-purist like me, but in this case, the movie is easily better than the book – quite a statement especially for a book that many people have long considered unfilmable. Well done.

2012 USA. Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer. Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon.
Seen October 27 at AMC Burbank 16.

The Master

I came into The Master with some trepidation, since I’m just about the only person on earth who really disliked There Will Be Blood, and I wasn’t sure if PT Anderson could get back on my good side or not. Thankfully, he did, and while I would say I only “really liked” The Master when first leaving the theatre, thinking back on it and talking about it has raised it my estimation a LOT. I might still like Magnolia (see below) a bit better of PTA’s films, but it’s close, and so far The Master is probably the best movie of the year for me. The interplay between Phoenix and Hoffman is incredible – two actors at the top of their game, playing off their very different styles (and very different characters) against each other. Amy Adams holds her own as well, which I didn’t expect. And the jittery camerawork/focus underscores the story – really, the character study – perfectly. Images, lines, contrasts, outbursts, quiet moments – they’ve all come flooding back to me without warning over the weeks since I saw the movie, and that’s what I call a sign of a great film. Great enough I might be willing to give TWBB another chance. We’ll see.

2012 USA. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams.
Seen September 15 at Arclight Hollywood.


With Argo, Ben Affleck cements his career as a director even further, proving that while many of us have lost faith with him as an actor, when he’s behind the camera, he can do little wrong. This time he’s in front of the camera as well, which worried me a little (I didn’t see The Town, which also had him as actor-director), but he comes through in both roles. Taking a side story from the Iran Hostage Crisis of six Americans who managed to escape the embassy and hide out in the Canadian ambassador’s house, Affleck plays an extraction expert whose crazy plan to get them out involves a fake movie for which they will be the fake scouting crew in Tehran. The film’s seemingly unwieldy combination of real-life political thriller (which is highly tense and dramatic) and Hollywood show biz story (which has a good deal of comedy) comes together perfectly, while Affleck and Co’s eye for period ’70s detail puts him right up there with Soderbergh. An old-fashioned thrill ride with a great cast.

2012 USA. Director: Ben Affleck. Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy.
Seen October 13 at AMC Burbank 16.


This has been my most-anticipated film ever since I first heard about it more than a year ago, thanks to my abiding love for Rian Johnson films (I loved Brick more than The Brothers Bloom, but they’re both really good), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and time travel. I successfully avoided almost all the marketing for it, so I went in pretty cold, and I’m glad I did. The story is more about Gordon-Levitt’s character development (thanks to the incursion of his future self in the form of Bruce Willis) than time travel itself – in fact, Johnson actually wisely refrains from getting into the nitty-gritty of the time travel, which keeps the focus squarely on the characters, and I liked that. There are a few plot holes if you analyze the time travel too deeply, but I don’t think they ultimately matter in terms of the character-focused story, and the combination of character drama and action flick with just a touch of sci-fi works really well.

2012 USA. Director: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo.
Seen September 29 at AMC Burbank.

Premium Rush

Bike messenger Joseph Gordon-Levitt rides his bike around NYC at breakneck speeds, trying to deliver a life-or-death package, avoid the dirty cop trying to catch him, the real bicycle cop he pissed off, and fight a rival bike messenger for the affections of his girlfriend. And it’s pretty much non-stop adrenaline from start to finish. That’s about all you need to know. This is an old-fashioned B-level genre movie, and it hits every note right. Sure, it’s got nothing deep going on, but it doesn’t try to be any more than it is and for 85 minutes of pure fun, this kind of thing is hard to beat for me. And Michael Shannon is awesome in this kind of no-holds-barred role (he’s always awesome, but he’s all kinds of fun when he really lets loose).

2012 USA. Director: David Koepp. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Sean Kennedy.
Seen August 8 at AMC Burbank.

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FB100: #95 – Run Lola Run

This post is part of a project to watch the Film Bloggers’ 100 Favorite Non-English Films. See my progress here.

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)
Germany 1998; dir: Tom Tykwer
starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bliebtreu
screened 1/28/08, DVD

“I wish I was a heartbeat that never comes to rest.”

Previous Viewing Experience: Oh, golly. This will be the fifth time I’ve seen this film. Guess you know I like it, eh? (Although I’ve seen Citizen Kane as many times, and I don’t particularly like it…)

Knowledge Before Viewing: This is one of my all-time favorite films, but I haven’t really written anything about it. So it’ll be interesting to see it with the intention of writing about it. The response will still likely be “OMG, I love this movie so much!!!!11!” Oh well. I honestly can’t remember what I’d heard about it before watching it the first time, or what my expectations were. But I’m sure they were exceeded.

Previous Reactions: I’ve never reviewed it before, but my rating on it is “Superior,” no question. It’s number 3 on my Best Films of 1999 list (it opened in the US in 1999, though it released in Germany in ’98), and 1999 was a VERY good year for movies. Run Lola Run is one of two foreign films I use to bait people who say they don’t like foreign films (the other is Amelie, at #92 on this list). So far I’ve never shown it to anyone who didn’t love it; it taps into the MTV generation’s love of quick editing and techno-rock music (one of the best soundtracks to drive to, by the way), but also manages a surprising amount of depth in both story and narrative technique. I’m just glad to have an excuse to watch it again. :)

Brief Synopsis: Lola’s boyfriend Manni has lost a bag containing 100,000 marks which belongs to a local crime lord; she has twenty minutes to somehow get enough money to bail him out of the situation. Her attempt to get the money is repeated three times, with slight variations.

Response: Have I mentioned that I love this movie? Yeah, still do. On a philosophic level, it’s a fascinating inquiry into the nature of time, the efficacy of human action, and the mutability of fate. Each time through, there are slight differences: the first time, Lola might nearly run into a woman with a baby stroller, the second time, she does run into her. We’re shown in a rapid series of stills what happens to the woman afterwards: the first time, she loses her child to child services and steals another, the second she wins the lottery. There are several of these “and then” sequences for various people Lola encounters, and each one shows a different outcome. It’s tempting to imagine a cause-effect relation between Lola’s encounters with them and their futures, but I’m not sure that’s right; these are coincidental moments of little or no consequence–it could be a case of the butterfly effect (small actions have large consequences and the slight changes lead to radically different ends), but I think it’s simply that each person has a multitude of possible futures, and the film doesn’t necessarily comment on the degree of interrelation between chance and human action. It’s definitely a postmodern film, and the idea of multiple branching futures is found in a lot of postmodern narratives–compare it to certain sections of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and If on a winter’s night a traveler, for example, or Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths.

[This video is of the third time through the sequence]

The idea of multiple futures is backed up obviously by the tripartite structure, in which the first two attempts to save Manni fail, and Lola decides to try again–and does! The opening sequence, before we meet Manni and Lola, suggests that we’re playing a game which, like football (er, soccer), has established rules–the ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes. Those are the constraints we’re given in the world we’re about to enter. But Lola doesn’t play by the established rules. And neither does this film, in all the best ways. Stylistically, Tykwer pulls every trick he can find: There are animated segments (which are just cool anyway, but also highlight the constructedness and artificiality of the story we’re watching), black and white sections, nearly frame-by-frame montages, long tracking shots, interspersed stills, jump cuts, handheld shots, split-screen (eat your heart out, 24), you name it. You’d think with all that he wouldn’t have time for much else, but there’s an entire subplot about Lola’s father and his mistress which surprises me every time with its depth, despite its sum total of probably four minutes on screen.

And there’s so much more I could probably talk about, but those are the main things that impress me every time. It’s just so enjoyable to watch, so well-structured as a narrative, and so fascinating as a philosophical exercise–and there are so few movies that manage to be all three, and in less than 90 minutes, too.

(Since I’ve seen this many times before, I opted not to include two responses; the response above can be considered a reflective response as well as an immediately-after-viewing response.)

Picspam!: Haven’t been able to do this on the last several, because I can’t screencap videos. Yay for DVDs! And movies I want to take the time to screencap.