nebbish sorts often have a hard time of it in Simenon’s work. The Belgian crime writer took rather perverse
delight in up-ending their drab, regimented lives. Such will be the case for a stand-offish
tailor in Patrice Leconte’s Monsieur Hire
which screens during the Anthology Film Archives’ Cine-Simenon retrospective.
do not like Hire, but he does not think much of them either. His meaningful human contact will largely be
confined to two rather out of the ordinary relationships. Alice is the object
of his obsession. As fate would have it,
his flat window is perfectly situated to spy on all her intimate moments. Discovering her peeping tom, Alice starts
initiating encounters between them. Something about the awkward Hire just seems
to intrigue her.
when a young woman’s body is discovered, Hire’s neighbors are only too willing
to suspect him. With their
encouragement, a world-weary police inspector very publically dogs the shunned
tailor, in the tradition of Columbo—and of course Maigret. However, Leconte’s take on Simenon
(co-adapted by Patrick Dewolf) will masterfully undermine viewers’ assumptions.
is anti-social, but it is not his fault.
He was born that way. Unfortunately,
misanthropes like him will always face hostility and discrimination. Frankly, Leconte’s film is one of the few attempts
to empathize with such an unappealing character. As a result, there is necessarily quite a bit
of creepiness and clamminess going on, yet the film is still quite effective as
a film noir psychological thriller.
is rather alarming how perfectly Michel Blanc essays the look and essence of
the severely withdrawn Hire. As restrained
and frustrating as the character might be, we still get a vivid sense of all
the messiness bottled up inside him. In
contrast, the glacial, cipher-like Sandrine Bonnaire is a somewhat problematic
femme fatale. However, André Wilms has
never gotten his proper due for his subtly surprising turn as the Simenon-esque
Hire is a very dark film,
addressing some provocative themes, but there is a humanistic foundation to it
all. Definitely a film for intelligent
adult audiences, it is a fitting selection for AFA’s Cine-Simenon series. Recommended for fans of film noir and French
cinema, it screens tomorrow (8/11) and next Saturday (8/17) at Anthology.
Labels: Cine-Simenon, French Cinema, Georges Simenon, Patrice Leconte