A superb thriller containing the ugliest portrait of French provincialism since Henri-Georges Clouzot's LE CORBEAU, Patrice Leconte's MONSIEUR HIRE is set in a Parisian suburb in which conformity reigns supreme. Based on the Georges Simenon novel that also inspired Julien Duvivier's
PANIQUE, MONSIEUR HIRE is a penetrating psychological portrait of a love-starved outsider who, by the film's end, arouses the audience's protective instincts. When a young girl is murdered, a dogged police investigator (Wilms) immediately suspects Hire (Blanc), a loner distrusted and hated by his
neighbors. Tormented by children who play vicious pranks on him, Hire is hounded mercilessly by the detective. Hire resembles his tormenter in that he is an ever-vigilant soul, if in a less acceptable form--for the outcast is a voyeur who spies on Alice (Bonnaire), the woman has moved in across
the way. Eventually, Alice spots her secret admirer and, surprisingly, pays him a visit rather than reporting him to the police. An uninhibited free spirit, she is drawn to Hire and allows him to share the simple pleasures of his life with her. Despite continual harassment from the detective, Hire
even makes plans to move to Switzerland with Alice, who, unfortunately, has a ne'er-do-well boyfriend (Thuillier). The denouement provides a heartrending exploration of duplicity and betrayal, with a particularly effective freeze-frame halting the action just before it flows into the twist ending.
Rather than jazz up the suspense through the conventional device of cross-cutting, director Leconte works within the frame to create a sense of inexorable doom. MONSIEUR HIRE doesn't move at a fast clip; instead, it involves the viewer in a downward spiral by making us co-voyeurs with the title
character, whose life has been a study in self-protective detachment. The audience is implicated in this point of view, eyeing Bonnaire hungrily through her window as Leconte's camera pulls back to an over-the-shoulder shot of Blanc doing the same. In another dazzling, sexually provocative
sequence that puts the same motif to very different purposes, the film cuts from an over-the-shoulder shot of Bonnaire watching Thuillier as he enjoys a brutal boxing match to a shot of Blanc fondling her.
Anchored by a haunting performance from Blanc as the voyeur who throws years of self-control to the winds, MONSIEUR HIRE is a study of blindness on two levels: that of prejudice and that of love. As a result of this blindness, both the deceiver and the deceived become victims of fate in this icily
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: A superb thriller containing the ugliest portrait of French provincialism since Henri-Georges Clouzot's LE CORBEAU, Patrice Leconte's MONSIEUR HIRE is set in a Parisian suburb in which conformity reigns supreme. Based on the Georges Simenon novel that also… (more)