Friday, April 17, 2015

A Perfume for rats


Ratatouille wasn't what I had hoped to come home with from the library on Tuesday. I had a different Pixar in mind to watch with my four-year-old, who still hasn't seen The Incredibles despite his love of superheroes. Getting a plate and bowl set emblazoned with Mr. Incredible and family seemed like just the nudge I needed to go track down a copy.

Although you can usually find plenty of Pixar on the library shelves, The Incredibles was nowhere to be seen. So I grabbed Ratatouille, Frozen and The Jungle Book, figuring that we'd get to watch either a movie I wanted to rewatch, a movie I probably needed to rewatch, or one I'd never seen, respectively, during my younger son's nap on Wednesday morning.

Suspecting he'd choose his fourth viewing of Frozen if given the chance -- and that my feelings toward it probably wouldn't improve significantly on a second viewing -- I ended up leaving that out of the options. He picked Ratatouille over The Jungle Book.

Given that Ratatouille is not "kid-friendly Pixar" -- a strange statement to make, but I think you get what I mean -- I immediately had my doubts about his ability to watch the whole thing. Its length was one of the (minor) complaints I had about this movie back when I saw it in 2007, so it surprised me that it turned out to be less than 100 minutes before the credits rolled (with a total running time of 111, including credits). It also surprised me that he actually mostly paid attention, only becoming distracted by his toys a couple times, but then snapping back to attention when something unexpected or startling happened. If he'd been paying full attention he might have had fewer follow-up questions, but then again, he's at an inquisitive age. There are enough things going on in this movie that would go over the head of a child that I'm kind of surprised he didn't ask more.

Of course, at his young age, I'm not quite as interested by what my son might get out of it as I am about my own takeaways. And I had a rather funny one with my second viewing of Ratatouille: It bears a rather striking resemblance to one of my favorite movies of 2006, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

Consider:

1) Both films have to do with a character known for his freakish sense of smell. Remy, however, is recognized as a prodigy (he can save his rat brethren from eating poisoned food) while Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is just an unnerving outcast.

2) Both characters aspire to greatness. Remy wants to be an outstanding chef, while Jean-Baptiste wants to become a great perfumier.

3) Both characters lack the means to demonstrate their greatness, so they do it through an intermediary. Remy uses his skills to make Linguini seem like Paris' greatest new chef, while Jean-Baptiste props up the sagging perfume business of Giuseppe Baldini by becoming his behind-the-scenes new talent.

4) Both characters are animals, in a way. Remy is, of course, a rat, and Jean-Baptiste's last name is the French word for "frog" -- though this is more likely a reference to him being a "frog," as in a Frenchman. (The character is supposed to be sort of a cypher, and so his name is essentially John the Baptist Frenchman -- which gets the religious allegory in there as well.)

5) Both characters are constantly being hunted. Every human Remy comes across wants to kill him, while the authorities of Grasse are desperately seeking a serial-killing Grenouille -- though they don't know he is the one they're looking for until very near the end.

6) Both characters murder young girls in order to distill their scents. Okay, wait, Remy doesn't do that.

7) Both movies spend a good chunk of time in Paris.

Not quite as profound as my comparison of Whiplash and Birdman, but enough for a blog post, anyway.

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