Cinema Signal:

The Off-Hollywood Film Guide:
The Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films on Video and DVD
by Tom Weiner

. "Violet Perfume: Nobody Listens"
(aka, "Perfume de Violetas: Nadie te Oye")
[Due to the unpredictable ways in which browsers display accents and diacritical marks, they have been removed]

Lest you think that this is a story about flowers and fragrances, let me dash the image of the title by dousing it in cold reality. It tells the tale of a teenage girl with social problems, a very close best friend, and rape. This is not pretty and doesn't smell so nice.

Yessica (Ximena Ayala) enrolls in a new school in Mexico City after being expelled from her old one for slapping the principal. Her matter-of-fact admission of this to the class is not the only odd thing about her behavior, which seems slightly against the social grain. The one positive development is her close companionship with classmate Miriam (Nancy Gutierrez) but, despite near dependency on her friend, her actions are somewhat south of normal.

Miriam's better living standards are evident by the glee with which Yessica visits, her joy at taking a bath in a tub, her happiness of her feeling of elevation in the world. So, you'd wonder why she goes poking around where she shouldn't, finding a role of bills in Miriam's mother's makeup box, and a rather radical submission to her urges.

In contrast, Yessica's home is one of near deprivation and serious problems. Her step-brother wants her to "play ball" with his boss El topi (Cesar Balcazar) in order to make some money. When she refuses, this cretin assists in her street capture and rape, using the money earned to buy new shoes.

Now, Yessica has even more reason to act out, knowing that any complaint she makes is likely to come back on her, hence the subtitle, "Nobody Listens." She tells Miriam, seeks a return to happiness, steals a bottle of violet perfume from a street vendor and lets her best friend, Miriam, take the tap and pay the costs.

Ayala is fascinating in the role, not exactly pretty, but fascinating to watch in the erratic characterization. Her bold energy takes hold and demands sympathy, even while she does things most of us would reject on a moral basis. Somehow, she makes you want her to work her way through her peculiarities as though they're little more than teenage issues. Unfortunately, that's not where she, and this film, are going.

Though I can't reveal the ending, I'm forced to say it takes a strange path that, instead of finding a resolution, introduces a whole new dimension to the plot line. To say it's a downer is an understatement. It takes the essential world it creates of heartbreak, defenselessness and personal disaster to a whole new level.

Director Maryse Sistach adopts a style of modest naturalism, which helps feed the impression of truthfulness and understatement, probably helping to explain why it has touched so many in the Latin world since it was made. Despite its unrelieved seriousness of tragic proportions, it has been ringing bells of recognition, having won over 20 international awards including 5 from the Mexican Academy and was the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film Award in 2002. It also claims to be one of the top 15 Mexican Box office hits.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Ximena Ayala and Nancy Gutierrez

Yessica and Miriam, tight buddies

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