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SIFF 2011: Perfect Sense



David Mackenzie makes intriguing and rather challenging films. I might be quite taken with his work. I was a bit mystified by Young Adam, but completely adored every second of Hallum Foe and am again quite taken with Perfect Sense which is a rather timely apocalyptic allegory on humanity.

Susan (Eva Green) is an epidemiologist puzzling about a peculiar outbreak involving a sudden loss of the sense of smell. The loss of this sense follows a period of immense grief over past wrongs and regrets. Susan appears less absorbed with this strange epidemic, then her failed relationships and terrible luck with men. Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef at the restaurant across from Susan's flat, who's livelihood is being threatened by the impact loss of scent has on the enjoyment of dining. After a bummed cigarette, their lives become entangled by mutual desire and synchronous onset of the illness. With both Micheal and Susan in the throes of profound grief and need, their relationship gains depth quickly, without being overcome by the kinds of doubts and fears that preclude the progression of many relationships. They are caught up in the center of a confusing, global crisis that Susan should be among the scientists attempting to solve, while Michael is only trying to continue working as a chef in a world where people are not drawn to food by the enticing scents.

But the epidemic rages on. The loss of the sense of smell is only the first of the senses to depart. Taste is lost after an orgiastic hunger. Hearing is next after a loud, demonstrative period of violence and rage. And after people lose a sense, there is a brief period of panic, until the world learns to cope with the loss. Micheal draws back costumers without the sense of smell, by enhancing the flavor of the meals, then once taste has departed, they experiment with the texture and sensory aspects of eating. This leads to a delightful bath tub lovemaking scene where soap is eaten and suds playfully spit after the lovers have lost their sense of taste. This is what really works with Perfect Sense. While their is no attempt to explain an outbreak that robs mankind of each sense one by one, the film instead explores the elements at the root of humanity and has an optimistic outlook on mankind's ability to adapt to any situation. Finally, even in the darkest moments of this film, when it appears that there is no hope for the human race, the underlying message comes across that even in the middle of a global crisis that will likely lead to the final days of human life on the planet, that love will persevere.

Because when there is nothing left, all you need is love.

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