Movie of the Week: Monsieur Hire / by Christian Tizya

This week's pick is a 1989 French film called "Monsieur Hire". Masterfully Directed by Patric Leconte, it's a tense thriller that follows a man who obsesses over the beautiful woman living in the building next to him while simultaneously proving his innocence in the murder of a local girl.

The protagonist (played by Michel Blanc) sits alone in his apartment always dressed in a 3 piece suit, listening to classical music while watching Alice going about her life. He never does anything more than watch her, much like it's his evening TV. A Detective is convinced he's responsible for the murder of a girl in the neighbourhood, seeing he has a criminal history under a different name but Monsieur Hire insists he's innocent while continuing to indulge in his strange habits. He makes contact with Alice eventually, who oddly finds his voyeurism charming and may be the only proof he's not a killer. Or is he?

The film is meticulously shot where every frame is like a rich tableau, when he's alone his world is pale but when he indulges in his strange vices colour is introduced and it jumps off the screen. There's clever uses of food as a symbol of passion, such as the scene where Alice spills a bag of bright red tomatoes in front of his flat and gets on her knees to pick them up. There it is, passion spills on the floor and rolls to his feet in a random matter contradicting his clean, sterile world. Also Alice places an apple by a mirror in her apartment where she can watch the reflection of Hire watching her. There are some brilliantly composed shots in this.

There's also music by Michael Nyman which always enhances a film greatly. Seeing there's such an ominous nature about Monsieur Hire who seems controlled and calculated yet randomly shows signs of rage, the soundtrack rather than become a caricature relies more on the characters refined exterior that the he uses to hide his demons. Combined with the cinematography this is a rich cinematic treat that starts off like Hitchcock and turns into a demented romance.