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With: Michel Blanc, Sandrine Bonnaire, Luc Thuillier, André Wilms
Written by: Patrice Leconte, Patrick Dewolf, based on a novel by Georges Simenon
Directed by: Patrice Leconte
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 79
Date: 05/24/1989

Monsieur Hire (1989)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Hire Ground

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Patrice Leconte's work over the past few years (My Best Friend, The Widow of St. Pierre) has been largely uninspiring, subject to whims and moods rather than any personality or driving force. But looking at this earlier film is quite a surprise. It's a highly skilled, almost perfectly sustained thriller with erotic undertones. Michel Blanc, normally a comic actor, stars as Monsieur Hire, a buttoned-up little fellow with a bald dome, beady eyes and an inexpressive mouth. He works as a tailor, occasionally impresses bystanders with his bowling prowess and disdains the human race in general. However, he loves watching his neighbor Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire, ravishing with thick blonde hair) through his window. She's almost his opposite: passionate, reckless and perhaps a bit naïve. Though the film's color palate is deliberately bland and muted, she is almost always associated with vivid red. Trouble comes when a girl is found murdered and the innocent Monsieur Hire is the prime suspect. But the murder is less important than the movie's emotional mystery. Alice comes to visit Monsieur Hire and actually begins to flirt with him, but what are her motives? Does she see something gentle in him that her callous, clueless boyfriend Emile (Luc Thuillier) is missing? Leconte handles all this exactly right with jaw-dropping precision, and guides the film to a satisfying close in less than 80 minutes. He even gets a palpable erotic energy with barely any nudity. The widescreen cinematography, with its inventive use of colors, reflections and corners, is also a high point. André Wilms turns in a lively performance as the inspector searching for the murderer.

DVD Details: Oddly enough, this movie has been missing from Region 1 DVD until now. Kino's 2007 release is of superb quality, with only modest extras: an interview with Leconte, a photo gallery and a trailer.

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