Monsieur Hire is a film of atmosphere and suggestion, cinematic to its very core. If the source novel could not be traced, as I read in another review, this can only make its making-over to film more complete, even though there is a certain shallowness typical of Simenon. Maybe I should say concern with surfaces, because it is not a failing as the word shallowness implies. Rather, Patrice Leconte makes a virtue of it, creating a seductive concoction of faces, voyeurism straight from Rear Window but given a much more romantic slant, and Brahms' Piano Quartet no. 1, sometimes filtered through Michael Nyman's sensibility. Where the subject could be gloomy and weighty, here it is given a light, very 80s feel. Michel Blanc is outstanding as is Sandrine Bonnaire, their chemistry being most unusual. But then again a character like Monsieur Hire is not usually given top billing without serious tweaking to make him more appealing to viewers. As it is, he is more memorable and the film acquires a patina of depth even as it is really paper-thin: a cinematic illusion as beguiling as it is brief at only 75 minutes.
At long last, 'Monsieur Hire' is available in DVD format in the UK. What took it so long? For European films fans like me, life is not as easy as it is for Hollywood movies fans. For this reason we are almost forced into relying on imported DVDs without English subtitles, or old VHSs! However, here it is now - I'm very pleased to be able to appreciate this atmospheric film once again, but this time with a better picture and sound quality!
Obviously I'm not going to talk too much about the plot, but this is a beautiful but sad, passionate but profound French film. The Director is one of my favourites, Patrice Leconte, who also directed many other masterpieces, including 'Hairdresser's Husband', 'Le Parfum D'Yvonne' and 'Intimate Strangers (Confidences Trop Intimes)'. His photography, the choice of soundtracks, the timing between dialogues and the agony that often appears in the actors' faces, all make me feel I'm part of his films, and I can't keep watching them without taking a few deep sighs.
'Monsieur Hire' is the film in which Leconte, for the 1st time, worked with the main actress, Sandrine Bonnaire (Intimate Strangers), who plays a beautiful as well as mysterious young woman, Alice. The love and affection that a local middle-aged tailor, played by Michel Blanc, feels for Alice, torments him as he can do nothing but watch her from his apartment window. He turns the light off and plays a record when he watches her. This piece of music is from Brahms' piano quartet in G Minor No.4, with Michael Nyman's arrangement, which creates further agonies in the viewer's chest. As he watches her, he realises that there is a serious secret in her life, which plays a major role in the relationship between the two people but nobody knows what she is really thinking - very clever. By this point, I was shaking my head, utterly engrossed, because I couldn't believe how incredibly Bonnaire and Blanc played their characters with so much emotion, even in the small expressions on their faces and their minimal body language - simply breathtaking! It'll be very difficult to take your eyes off the screen until the very end of the film, and I'm sure you'll love this amazing masterpiece of Leconte from 1989. Hope you'll enjoy it!
"They'll find the killer some day, but no one will ever hold her in his arms again."
Monsieur Hire is the perfect suspect. Nobody likes him. Conversations die away when he passes by. Children play tricks on him. He sleeps very little. He never uses the lights. He sits in the dark in his room. And he likes to watch... So, naturally, when a young girl is found murdered, Hire finds himself put under the microscope, both by the strange detective who regularly humiliates him in the course of his investigation and the girl he spies upon who suddenly confronts him, with very unexpected results.
Patrice Leconte's film is one of those remarkable career turnarounds that defy expectations. Best known at the time for his unashamedly populist French comedies, Monsieur Hire is the equivalent of the director of Adam Sandler films suddenly having a stab at The Girl With the Pearl Earring and actually getting it right. His adaptation of a half-remembered Georges Simenon novel (literally: when he finally got the rights, no-one could find a copy of the novel to work from!) works both as a spellbinding piece of pure filmmaking and an intriguing drama about the difference between watching and comprehending. Hire may think he knows almost everything about his neighbor Alice because he has watched her so closely, but seeing and understanding are not always the same thing, as he himself reveals when he tells one of the whores he visits the story of a popular old lady who fed the pigeons breadcrumbs: because of her kindly face, people never realised that in fact she was poisoning them.
Above all, it's a very sensual film. Not in any erotic sense, although there is a charge when Hire finally allows himself to touch another human being. Rather this is a film about seeing and smelling, the senses through which we first form judgements but which still allow us to keep our distance - and not just M. Hire himself. It's no accident that the film ends with everyone silently watching him, and with the camera pulling away from a figure who finally understands what really happened too late in a truly haunting image.
Sandrine Bonnaire does remarkably well in what could simply have been a cipher as the object of his attentions, pulling off the difficult scenes where she gets closer to Hire while still managing to remain a credible figure, but it's no slight on her to say that this is Michel Blanc's show. Lurking at the edge of the frame or isolated in the center of the image, the balding, almost expressionless Blanc's performance is a masterclass in control. Not merely physical control, but resisting the desire to make Hire in any way likeable or more accessible. There is no appeal to sentiment, no crack in the façade to let us in and recognise anything admirable or empathetic, no explanation or excuse for the way he is. As a character he remains strange and ill suited for the world of men and women. Even the possibility of love does not free him from his shell. And it's that very inaccessibility that ultimately makes him such a tragic figure. Hire is as dead as the murder victim, who the detective pointedly notes will never be touched again: he just happens to still be walking around.
On the surface, the film is equally controlled - Leconte and Patrick Dewolf's tight screenplay is spare and precise, but with enough room for director and actors to build on, while Ivan Maussion's unostentatious design and Denis Lenoir's restrained yet meticulous cinematography serve the characters perfectly. Even Michael Nyman's music rises above what was then his usual formulised mathematical masturbation to deliver something whose precisely formalized distance is absolutely right.
Leconte's great use of the Scope frame is well preserved in Second Sight's sadly extras-free UK DVD, although the color seems slightly richer than the theatrical print I saw a few years ago (although that could just have been color fading). Hopefully a more ambitious DVD release with some special features will find its way to region 1 sooner rather than later.
Monsieur Hire is one of Georges Simenon's most fascinating narratives. The film, a remake of film made in the late 1940s, the film is carried by Sandrine Bonnaire and Michel Blanc; who plays an odd little man who is hated his by neighbours and children for his impassive nature and indifference to the world around them. Our Monsieur Hire is enthralled by Alice, who he spies on in secret and from behind the window, while Alice loves another man, who is unreliable, frivolous, and is also a murderer. Alice knows of the crime and plays a perverse game of seduction with Monsieur Hire. Thus the film unfolds as the players take on their respective mantels. The director Patrice Leconte's camera is slow as it pans on lingering fashion on faces and hand gestures of the characters. This is a truly excellent film that ticks all the boxes in my case - highly recommended.
Although perhaps not as doomed a relationship as that in LE BOUCHER that between Monsieur Hire (local scapegoat and voyeur) and Alice is always going to be difficult. Based on a Simenon novel any review is going to have to be careful about giving away hints, but this film is full of winks and nudges. No-one is quite as they seem from the duffel coat-clad policeman to the duplicitous Alice. Abetted by theme music from Brahms (via Romania and Michael Nyman) the result is exactly the sort of romantic tale of 47 year-old men going on 17 that only the French can manage.
French screenwriter and director Patrice Leconte`s ninth feature film which he and writer and director Patrick Dewolf adapted from Belgian writer Georges Simenon`s novel "Les Fiancailles de Mr Hire" (1933), tells the story of an unsociable middle-aged man called Monsieur Hire who is perceived as a somewhat weird person by his neighbours and has a secret admiration for a young woman whom he regularly spies on from his urban apartment window.
This subtle, seductive and witty fable about love, obsession, crime and solitude, is an intriguing study of character and a beautiful drama about a man`s surreal crush on a woman. The pivotal music from the always brilliant composer Michael Nyman, the characteristic directing and the endearing acting performances by Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire is distinct in this late 1980s gem from a great director who usually makes worthwhile films.
This is a short tragedy about mis understanding. Perfectly told.
It's fascinating that the person who made this film, and i believe the main actor mainly did comedy prior to this. There are no evil characters, each one uses the other in some way. And there is genuine affection. But the mis understanding between Hire and his neighbor Pierette has devastating consequences.
You do not need to speak French to watch this film, or even subtitles.The story is told visually to a haunting Brahms soundtrack. It is quite stylised. But the acting, particular Hire who is a perplexing figure, draws you in. The performances are very human, jaw dropping at times. Not contrived like in Delicatessen.
It's my Favorite French film, and if it was not so tragic, could be my favorite film. It is a bit arty, but uses film so well it's like watching an hour long painting or photograph, every scene is almost to good. Like 'Requiem for a dream' it starts like a fairy tale and lures you to a tragic ending.