Patrice Leconte is a master in depicting sensuality. He is perfectly capable of extracting the sensual aspect of his characters without resorting to scenes of sex and nudity. The 1994 drama “Le Parfum d’Yvonne” [Eng. Title: The Scent of Yvonne] is one of his rare films featuring nudity.
The film, mostly told in flashback, is a nostalgic trip taken by Victor as he gazes into a fire at night. Only towards the end of the film do we see what he was gazing at. He reminisces his first encounter with Yvonne during the summer of 1958 – a young starlet staying at the same resort as he by the shores of Lake Geneva, their romance, and their subsequent engagement. The colours and sounds from these flashbacks are vivid and yet soothing, much like a fond memory, but we are aware in the back of our minds that it all seems too good to last.
Leconte has skilfully captured in his film the rose-tinted character of nostalgia. While this may not be his best known work, it is nevertheless well made, both in terms of production and artistic interpretation. The main actors give a fine performance, including a brilliant Jean-Pierre Marielle who plays the gay ‘Doctor’. Beautiful Dutch actress Sandra Majani plays Yvonne. It’s a shame this is her only feature film to date. A special mention should also be made for the awesome soundtrack by Pascal Estève, especially his choice of mambo songs by Celia Cruz – the sumptuous selection is an inspired choice. Highly Recommended Viewing!
Three different scenes appear in this segment. First is a romantic moment while Yvonne and Victor watch a game of tennis. The second is at a party where barmaid Laurence Lerel serves them – Yvonne and Victor joke about her cleavage later. It is followed by a striptease from a drunken party guest, played by Brigitte Petit. The third scene is of Yvonne and Victor travelling in a ferry to cross the lake. Yvonne tells Victor she will give him a present if he answers her question, which he does. On the deck, Yvonne reminds him of the present she promised, removes her white panties, and hands it to him saying, “…something to remember me by if I fall overboard.” When they reach the other side, Victor says, “Now that I have you safe and sound, I don’t need these any more”, and throws her panties away.
Victor and Yvonne decide to spend the rest of the afternoon at a nearby hotel. Afternoon turns to night…
This is another beautiful scene when Victor reads to Yvonne while giving her a massage.
Yvonne is invited to a party celebrating a contest she’d won. Victor watches as the host gets too friendly with Yvonne while dancing. Their mutual friend Rene advices him not to take notice. Later when Victor asks her why she didn’t stop the man when he was groping her, Yvonne replies that she was simply being nice to him. In the second scene, they visit Yvonne’s family home, and she takes him upstairs to her old room. She tells him that no boy had ever been there before, and invites Victor to make love to her. “For the last time,” he says, “…until we’re on the boat to America!”