Released in 1989, Monsieur Hire is an elliptical tale focusing on common French cinema themes of obsession, love and murder.
Hire (played creepily by comedy actor Michel Blanc) is a middle-aged misanthropist. Working as a tailor by day, his evenings are filled with drinking a bottle of wine for one and eating elaborate home cooked meals. Disdaining life and all that it creates, he glances out of his window and takes a glance at the object of his desire in the apartment across the street, the delicate femme fatale Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire). Watching her iron clothes, read by an open fire and get her frisk-on with her criminal boyfriend Emile, Hire’s peeping tom voyeurism leads to fatal consequences when he becomes an observer of a murderous crime.
Not meaning to begrudge my cultural neighbours of the south, Monsieur Hire is so atypically French that it borders on being trite. Although witnessing a crime may be the narrative adhesive to this surrealist tale, the unrequited, complex romance between Hire and Alice is the focal point of this film. Seeing the melodramatic finish line virtually from their first encounter, the pair’s infatuation is elevated to a bombastic new level with an overwrought score from Michael Nyman; which, in turn, makes the dialogue-light film take a particularly balletic shape.
Perfectly orchestrated, with two solid performances, it’s a shame that these stylistic constraints turn the delectably eldritch source material from novelist Georges Simenon into just another atypical French-heritage romance movie.