Monsieur Hire
Director: Patrice Leconte
Year:  1989
Rating: 7.0

This is based on a Georges Simenon 1933 novel that was one of his non-Maigret books. They were termed Roman Durs or “hard novels” that are tough, cynical, bleak, full of despair and disreputable characters. They are as far away from Maigret as the Earth from Jupiter. They cover all sorts of the human psyche and with vastly different plots but you rarely get a happy ending. This book falls squarely into that territory.

Monsieur Hire is one of those men that people just automatically avoid. He gives off an air of creepiness, of venality that you can’t quite define with his rotund figure, his mincing steps and his indifference to the world around him. He is also Jewish and considered an outsider. When a murdered prostitute is discovered nearby in an empty lot, the neighborhood suspicion falls upon Hire for no reason other than their attitudes towards him. The police begin to follow him everywhere and he begins to enjoy this game of cat and mouse. His one weakness is a voluptuous and carnal woman who works at a bakery and who keeps the shades open and the lights on when she undresses at night. Hire living across from her in another building sets his day by watching her and slowly foolishly falling in love. She knows he is watching. But in fact, he is being set up by her and her boyfriend to take the fall for the murder. Everyone in the novel is rotten from the inside out - the cops, the neighbors, the girl, her boyfriend and of course Mr. Hire. During the book you do begin to feel a little sympathy for his tortured ugly soul because he is what he is.

The film follows the plot to the final tragic ending but it is too pretty as LeConte creates a stunning canvas - perfect framing, subtle but lovely colors, generous close-ups of Sandrine Bonnair and an overall sense of beauty. The book was dark and ugly. There was no color. No light. Only maliciousness. But it is of course not fair to compare the film to the book - I just had expectations that were not met. The film on its own is wonderfully acted - the dead fish eyes of Mr Hire (Michel Blanc) could scare a rattlesnake away.