Director: Michael Rymer

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


The world of fashion is so perverse that it can easily be viewed as a parody of itself. Thus, the acrid depictions we've seen in the past, rather than emerging as bold or pointed, often come across as obviously self-evident. But Michael Rymer's lucid and compellingly real Perfume manages to avoid these pitfalls even as it captures the very recognizable backdrop of the New York scene with its cast of designers, models, photographers, and magazine editors. Such a dramatic scenario is normally populated with caricatures and stereotypes, but Rymer displays remarkable directorial prowess as he interweaves stories that both capture the drama of his protagonists' daily lives and reveal the subtle and sometimes fragile psychology of their makeup.

Utilizing an improvisational style that rarely works as well as it does here, Rymer intercuts the tales of a powerful fashion magazine maven, a photographer famous for having developed a "heroin-chic" aesthetic, a model struggling to maintain her dignity, a self-doubting dress designer, and a Versace-like éminence grise, and their presumably glamorous subculture with a perception and sense of truth that completely pulls us into its sphere. By eliciting classically cool performances and creative contributions from a first-rate cast, Rymer lets us feel the poignancy of their stories while remaining detached from the theatricality of their personal affectations. Featuring an especially charismatic performance from Paul Sorvino, Perfume is a gripping and intimate study of the social and personal dynamics of an insular, yet highly visible, cultural microcosm.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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