October 30, 2022

MONSIEUR HIRE: A Cinematic Sucker Punch

MONSIEUR HIRE (Blu-ray Review)
1989 / 79 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Wow! What an ending!

Patrice Leconte’s modern classic, Monsieur Hire, may be over three decades old, but it’s new to me, and as such, the denouement pretty much blew me away. In the context of the story, not only is it perfect, I totally didn’t see it coming. What’s also remarkable is that, for at least half the running time, the protagonist comes across as unpleasant, voyeuristic and flat-out creepy. Yet by the end, we're truly invested in him.

The titular character (Michel Blanc) is a reclusive, introverted tailor who’s the primary suspect in the recent murder of a young woman and mercilessly hounded by a police inspector (Andre Wilms). The audience initially suspects him as well, especially since he’s prone to angry outbursts, verbally abuses the women he visits at a brothel and, most alarmingly, spends every night watching his neighbor, Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire), through her window. 

"I was told it was Ladies Night."
Though shocked at first, Alice seems to enjoy being watched, even when her boyfriend, Emile (Luc Thuillier), is there. After she eventually confronts him, an oddly affectionate relationship develops between them. Hire professes to know her every move, yet she’s never scared or even repulsed. In fact, he generally treats her with more respect than Emile does (who’s a self-absorbed douchebag). Meanwhile, the real killer is revealed when Emile hides the victim’s handbag in Alice's apartment. Though Hire witnesses this, he does not go to the police. Doing so would clear his name, but would also implicate Alice. Now in love with her - a feeling which appears to be mutual - he has other ideas.

Blanc is amazing as Hire. Aided by an effectively sparse screenplay by Leconte (adapting Georges Simenon’s novel), he manages to turn this perverted little freak into a sympathetic, emotionally vulnerable character we care about. We may not want a guy like this living next door, but the more we understand Hire, the more he earns our trust. 

Then there’s that ending. Holy shit, what a gut punch. Maybe even a sucker punch. But given the bleak tone established in the very first scene, to say nothing of characters best described as morally questionable, any other conclusion would have somehow rang false. The haunting plot twist is ultimately what makes Monsieur Hire so memorable.


INTERVIEW - With director Patrice Leconte and actor Sandrine Bonnaire.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By critic/podcaster Wade Major.


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