For Scent-imental Reasons

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

This celebrated award-winner gets underway with a lot of French gibberish—”le mew,” “le purr”—some affectionate cultural clichés, and a ton of really beautiful Paris design. Really, the backgrounds of so many of these cartoons could supply sufficient entertainment and amaze, if we wanted to turn the sound down and ignore the main goings-on.

Pepé Le Pew is one part intertext (Pepé le Moko, and its English remake, Algiers), one part commedia/classical character type (Harlequin, sans class context, and strained through Charles Boyer). Writer Mike Maltese and director Chuck Jones have come up with a superb scenario here, or maybe it’s the situation beneath it. Put an unconventional or anomalous thing into a conventional situation—like a skunk in a romance—and you’re halfway there.

As always with these pictures, the gag that saddles the hapless Penelope with that white stripe down her back is really good—implausible to the point of ridiculousness, and so defiantly used that we properly buy it anyway. The suicide section—“I meesed, fortunately for you”—is terrific. Just about at, just past the point that Pepé is getting insufferable there’s a really nice table-turning. How do you like it now, nearly-rapist? The Most Dangerous Game!

For Scenti-mental Reasons is a prime gag-fest and a resonant situation comedy, but a theme registers too. We love what we perceive, not the reality of what we perceive. Is that Vertigo that I see, just around the corner there? Or Taxi Driver?