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Patrick Süskind's international best seller, set in 18th-century France, is sparked as well as limited by the task of conveying smell, which makes it a challenge to adapt to the screen (and probably accounts for Stanley Kubrick's brief interest). The abject, orphaned hero (Ben Whishaw) is born with an abnormally advanced olfactory sense and ultimately leaves Paris to prey on women in the countryside, killing virgins to create the ultimate perfume. Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and cowriters Andrew Birkin and Bernd Eichinger preserve some of the novel's storytelling flair, and Dustin Hoffman does a swell turn as the antihero's Italian mentor. But despite a fairly spectacular climax, the material's generic limitations eventually catch up with the plot. With Alan Rickman. R, 145 min.

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