Monsieur Hire (1989)

Monsieur Hire (1989), written and directed by Patrice Leconte.

When a young woman is murdered in a robbery, an odd little tailor is suspected. Why? Seemingly because he is strange and the neighbors don't like him. ("That's all right. I don't like them either").

At first he seems just blandly morose but bit by bit we learn: he keeps white mice and visits prostitutes. He is an expert bowler. His family name was changed to conceal his Jewish identity (we presume). He's done six months for "indecent assault". He is lonely but won't let anyone close.

His chief hobby is watching the young woman in the building across the street. He is a dedicated voyeur in her case. When one day she catches him... I cannot say more. I was surprised several times by plot twists and revelations.

This is the sort of psychological thriller often called "Hitchcockian". It is like his Vertigo (1958) in being an entirely different movie the second time through.

Adapted from a 1933 novel by Georges Simenon, author of the "Inspector Maigret" stories. It has been filmed several times, notably as Panique (1946), available on Criterion Blu-ray. I remember that as more of a social commentary, where this is about complex interpersonal relations: how deep do the deceptions go and when do we land on the truth?

Only 79m long. A scene I don't remember seeing before: a man hangs from a high rain gutter. The crowd below watches silently. When it is clear the end is near, everyone quietly steps back.

Brief but typically lovely score by Michael Nyman -- The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Drowning by Numbers (1988), The End of the Affair (1999), A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), Prospero's Books (1991), The Piano (1993). The sound of Hire's lonely yearning is Brahms chamber music, with Nyman as a performer.

Available on Blu-ray from Cohen Media. The black levels are not very good. The images look a little cold and desaturated with a slightly grainy texture, all from the original negative I believe; the director wanted that look. Pathé did the 4k restoration.

In an appreciative commentary by Wade Major he marvels about how on fire non-English cinema was in those years.