Director: Patrice Leconte
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