In the middle of a performance of Ivanov at the Comédie-Française, an actor dies on stage, the victim of poisoning. Martin Rémi, another actor in the troupe and witness to the drama, is suspected of the murder by the police. And also hunted by a mysterious criminal organization. With an improbable accomplice, Claire, the young man will seek to elucidate this drama during a breathless journey through Europe.
With such an attractive poster, we couldn’t wait to see Nicolas Pariser’s third feature film (Alice and the Mayor). Unfortunately, despite a good start, the plot of The Green Perfume struggles to keep our interest for almost two hours.
The film is a pastiche of police investigations and spy thrillers, with a strong touch of humor. The director multiplies the references to the classics. We think of Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, but also of Hergé (there are nods to Tintin, to Dupond/Dupont). Except that the disheveled scenario, even choppy, of Nicolas Pariser does not equal the art of these great masters. His film hesitates between several genres, without mastering any of them.
The green scent of the title represents a criminal organization. This would have infiltrated the troupe of the Comédie-Française. After the death on stage of a member of the company, the very distressed Martin Rémi (Vincent Lacoste seen in Lost Illusions; Asterix and Obelix: In Her Majesty’s Service) becomes the main suspect. And the troubles of the young actor are just beginning.
Martin will be kidnapped by a mysterious comic book collector, then meet Claire (Sandrine Kiberlain), a comic book artist who has far too much free time, in a bookstore. The duo will travel to Brussels, to the headquarters of the European Commission, then to Budapest, where the French troupe is performing L’illusion comique, by Corneille. We will then see long excerpts from the play, during a performance where an encrypted transmission of a message by the secret organization takes place.
However, the story does not offer any clues about the motives of the clandestine group or the links between the criminals, even less about the profile of the protagonists. Even if in the middle of the film, Claire and Martin have a long conversation, over a plate of pasta, about their love troubles. Everything rings false.
From twists and turns in night trains, to pursuits behind the scenes of theatres, Martin will end up succumbing to the charm of his partner in misfortune. Predictable end. Curtain on a background of midnight blue light…
However, despite the immense talent of the two performers from France, the couple does not have the chemistry of James Stewart and Kim Novak on screen, for example. It must be said that the sluggish pace of the film and the weakness of the dialogues do not help their game.
There remains the pleasure of seeing these two talented actors evolve in the splendid settings of European capitals. And the joy of watching the outcome of the investigation to the sound of the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25. It’s already taken.