We may not understand the French language but at the end of Monsieur Hire (1989) we did understand what fine acting is all about.
Starring Michel Blanc and Sandrinne Bonnaire in key roles, Monsieur Hire is a lovely French movie made all the more remarkable by a fine twist at the end.
Monsieur Hire tells the moving story of a voyeuristic misanthropic tailor – a middle-aged, bald tailor much hated in his apartment complex by both elders and children alike for apparently no reason.
When a a young teenage girl is murdered nearby, Monsieur Hire becomes the No-1 suspect of the police inspector (André Wilms) after a taxi driver sees someone running toward Hire’s apartment building around the time of the murder.
As the police inspector follows him around, Monsieur Hire is drawn into a different drama. He falls in love with Alice (Sandrinne Bonnaire), the object of his voyeuristic fascination and resident of the apartment opposite to his.
Alice’s romantic interests are centered on her unsavory boyfriend Emile (Luc Thuillier) but she is not unreceptive to the tailor’s overtures.
Aware of a dark secret, Monsieur Hire implores Alice to come away with him to a home he has in Lausanne. That scene is one of the two best moments in the movie.
The setting is a dimly-lit corner of a stadium where a boxing bout is going on and Monsieur Hire is begging her in a lengthy monologue to leave everything (including Emile) behind and come away with him to Lausanne and hands her the train ticket:
He isn’t worthy of you. I know he means a lot to you. I can make you forget him. It’s okay if you love him more at first. I’ll be patient…All, I want is for you to smile again. I love it when you do. Alice, I’m a man of my word. I’ll never desert you….
While the above scene was superb, the crowning glory of the movie comes toward the end when Monsieur Hire returns home from the train station and finds Alice and the police inspector in his home.
In one of the most touching scenes we’ve ever seen on the screen, Monsieur Hire, wearing an expression of infinite sadness on his face, says:
You’ll think me a fool, Alice. But I don’t feel any anger. Just a deathly sadness. But never mind, you gave me my greatest joy.
While all of the actors do their job with aplomb, it’s Michel Blanc who steals the show and your sympathy with a virtuoso performance as the misanthropic tailor seeking happiness in Alice.
There’s not a single frame in which Michel Blanc appears that you can’t help admire the considerable acting skills the French actor commands.
Monsieur Hire is a lesson to Bollywood and Kollywood directors that with a fine story and talented actors, you don’t have to run off to Peru (Enthiran), Prague/Namibia (Drona), USA (Sivaji) or Malaysia (Kuruvi) to make a gripping movie.
It’s when you see movies like Monsieur Hire, you realize what a bunch of buffoons most of our Indian film-makers are. Simply pathetic.
Monsieur Hire is based on the novel by Georges Simenon.
Oh, we almost to forgot to tell you that Monsieur Hire is directed by Patrice Leconte.
If you live in the U.S., Monsieur Hire is available at the online DVD rental service Netflix. Don’t worry if you can’t follow French because the movie has English subtitles.