Monsieur Hire

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Cohen;
Drama;
$19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Michel Blanc, Sandrine Bonnaire, André Wilms, Luc Thuillier.

French romantic Patrice Leconte had nine films to his credit by the time Monsieur Hire first introduced him to American audiences in 1989. For the next 15 years, Leconte filled arthouse screens with a string of highly effective amatory triumphs (The Hairdresser’s Husband, Ridicule, Widow of St. Pierre, etc.) that might have given The Notebook a run for the box office gold had fans of the latter been tolerant of talking printed across the bottom of the screen. Intimate Strangers was the last of Leconte’s films I recall seeing in a threater. A quick perusal of his filmography assures us he hasn’t been dormant for the past 20 years, although you couldn’t prove it in America.

Chances are, at some point in their various tenancies, apartment-dwellers have encountered a M. Hire (shortened from Hirovich after the war). He’s the odd, bulbous-headed homunculus at the end of the hall. Allergic to eye contact, he keeps to himself. Children see in him a prime source of ridicule, banging on his front door day and night or bombarding him with flour parachutes in the stairwell. Well-scrubbed, wrinkle free, and, in the case of Hire (played with glacial aplomb by Michel Blanc), the first on the block that neighbors suspect of murder when the cops throw a sheet over the body of a 22-year-old woman found in the nearby woods. From the moment he’s first introduced, Hire is presented as cold and aloof, but that doesn’t make him a bad person. Fans flock to the bowling alley to cheer on his feats of tenpin wizardry. The lanes are one of the few places he isn’t hated, a fact he makes sure the Inspector (André Wilms) is aware of. In return, Hire is reminded of his six-month sentence for indecent assault.

Hire chalks up his neighbors’ visceral hatred to a lack of social skills and his overall unfriendly demeanor. Conversations abort the moment he steps into view only to resume the second he’s out of earshot. Neighbors assure police that the victim was just as strange and unsociable as Hire. As if that alone were enough to cement his guilt. Given his disdain for humanity, Hire couldn’t care less about how others view him, except for the beautiful woman across the way. Tailor by day, scopophilic by night, were it not for a sudden flash of lightning Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire) might never have noticed his presence. Alice enjoys the attention. The next day she hides on the landing above his door, poised to make an introduction by purposely dropping a bag of tomatoes. Later that night, Alice is aware of his presence, looking on as she makes love to her boyfriend. The sensuality lands like a haymaker in, of all places, the middle of a boxing match. Terrified of intimacy, Hire felt more at ease expressing his forbidden love for Alice in a crowd, where something as gentle as the touch of a hand can send shock waves reverberating through one’s soul.

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Based on crime novelist Geroges Simenon’s Les Fiançailles de M. Hire, as directed by Leconte, one would be loath to classify this a mystery. Once the killer is revealed, most mysteries don’t withstand a return visit. In this case, the whodunit is subtly tipped early on. Leconte is such a crackerjack smuggler, it took two viewings to catch on. Nor would I call it a sexual thriller. The romance is conducted fully clothed. It’s the attention paid to detailed sensual abandon that drives viewers wild.

The Blu-ray’s one bonus feature is a doozy: parallel interviews with the director and his leading lady on the making of the film. The discussion begins with the film’s gestation from page to screen and again to screen. (Simenon’s novel was first adapted by Julien Duvivier in 1944 under the title Panique.) Ms. Bonnaire talks about character manipulation, M. Laconte discusses where a character’s emotions can lead them and together they offer their memories of making the film. Perhaps it was a matter of logistics, but the two never interact in the same frame.

 

Kino Lorber to Release French Classics ‘Felix and Lola,’ ‘Love Street’ Nov. 1

Kino Lorber Nov. 1 will release a double feature of romantic classics by French director Patrice Leconte, Felix and Lola and Love Street, on Blu-ray Disc.

Released under the Cohen Film Collection banner, the disc carries a suggested retail price (SRP) of $29.95. 

The two films will also be available digitally Nov. 1 on the Kino Now website.

Both come in French with English subtitles.

In Felix and Lola (2001), bumper car operator Felix (Philippe Torreton) falls in love with Lola (Charlotte Gainsbourg) one night as she rides the cars round and round, alone. He’s touched by the sadness in her eyes. When she vanishes, he discovers that she’s tied to a mysterious past — a past that he will have to confront.

Love Street (2002) is set in 1945 Paris, where the Oriental Palace brothel is about to be closed down. Marion (Laetitia Casta) is one of the Palace’s prostitutes, but she dreams of a singing career. Petit Louis (Patrick Timsit) was raised in brothels and is the Palace’s handyman. He is madly in love with Marion, but knows she will never be his, so he tries to make her dreams of another life come true.

Both films come with audio commentary tracks by Wade Major, producer and host of the DigiGods podcast and film critic for CineGods.com and KPCC FilmWeek.

Cohen Film Collection’s April Slate Includes ‘Jigsaw,’ ‘Dementia’

Cohen Media Group and Cohen Film Collection have announced their April 2022 Blu-ray Disc releases. The slate includes Jigsaw on April 5, Oranges and Sunshine April 12, My Afternoons with Marguerite April 19, and Dementia April 26.

In the newly restored 1962 Brit Noir classic, Jigsaw follows an absorbing murder mystery based on the Hillary Waugh novel Sleep Long, My Love and inspired by the Brighton Trunk Murders of the 1930s. After discovering a woman’s body in a lonely beach house, a pair of Brighton detectives painstakingly assemble a jigsaw puzzle of clues as they attempt to track down the murderer.

The 2010 Australian drama Oranges and Sunshine tells the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham who uncovered one of the most significant social scandals of recent times: the deportation of thousands of children from the United Kingdom to Australia. Through her work, Humphreys reunited thousands of families, brought authorities to account, and drew worldwide attention to the issue.

Set in a small French town, My Afternoon with Margueritte is a story of life’s random encounters. The 2010 French film follows the story of a nearly illiterate man in his 50s named Germain, who is considered the village idiot. He goes to the park one day and meets Margueritte, an intelligent little old lady with a passion for life that inspires Germain, who realizes he is more of an intellectual than he’s made himself out to be.

A 1950s style foray into the mind of psycho-sexual madness, Dementia follows a young woman who is haunted by the horrors of her youth, which transformed her into a stiletto-wielding, man-hating beatnik. The original film contained no dialogue, but narration was added two years later and the title changed to Daughter of Horror. This edition presents the original cut of Dementia, the complete Daughter of Horror, and the original theatrical trailer.

Cohen Media Group Sets January 2022 Blu-ray Disc Release Slate

The Cohen Media Group and Cohen Film Collection have announced their January 2022 Blu-ray Disc release slate.

The three releases are Only the Animals, Expresso Bongo and Dancing With Crime/The Green Cockatoo.

First up is 2019’s Only the Animals, arriving Jan. 4. The thriller, from director Dominik Moll (With A Friend Like Harry), tells the story of two depressed farmers, an unfaithful wife, a lovelorn waitress and an African con artist who are drawn together in a mystery surrounding the disappearance of Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s glamorous Evelyne Ducat. The action switches between international locations as the links between the characters are gradually revealed. The film is in French, with English subtitles. Cast members include Denis Menochet, Laure Calamy and Damien Bonnard. 

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Expresso Bondo, coming to Blu-ray Disc on Jan. 18, is a 1959 British rock ‘n’ roll classic about an opportunistic Soho talent agent (Laurence Harvey) who always looks for the quick buck. When he picks up amateur singer and bongo player (Cliff Richard) in a  Soho espresso bar, he uses a little bit of luck and tons of chutzpah to transform the kid into a highly-regarded international singing sensation. This 2K restoration from the original negative was done in collaboration with the British Film Institute and its Unlocking Film Heritage program. The Blu-ray Disc feature the original theatrical release, which includes a number of songs that were cut out of the later and more commonly available 1962 version that was released at the time to capitalize on the popularity of Cliff Richard.

The third release, due on Blu-ray Disc on Jan. 25, contains a double feature, Dancing With Crime and The Green Cockatoo, two early Brit Noirs from the Cohen Film Collection.

In 1947’s Dancing With Crime, Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim, who at the time were married in real life, put themselves in harms way when they go undercover to investigate the murder of a friend with ties to black market racketeers.

William Cameron Menzies’ The Green Cockatoo was completed in 1937, but not released until 1940. It is often cited as one of the earliest of the British Noirs and helped set the stage for the classical period of Brit Noir which flourished in the years following World War II. The film is based on a Graham Greene story. After witnessing the murder of a racketeer, a young woman is pursued by both gangsters and the police. She is aided by a Soho entertainer, who is the brother of the victim.

Cohen Film Collection Sets Aug. 31 Blu-ray Disc, DVD Release Dates for Two French Alain Delon Films

Cohen Film Collection has announced an Aug. 31 Blu-ray Disc and DVD release of “Three Men to Kill,” a double feature of two classic French crime dramas starring Alain Delon, the French actor and screen sex symbol of the 1960s and ’70s.

The collection will consist of  the movies The Gang (1977) and Three Men to Kill (1980), and will retail at $19.95 (DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray). 

The Gang: In 1945, as World War Two comes to a close, five small-time crooks unite to form a gang led by the charismatic Delon. After several bold robberies they become notorious as “the front-wheel drive gang.” The police attempt to stop their crime spree with little success, but the gang’s luck won’t last forever.

Three Men to Kill (1980): In this gritty, violent and suspenseful thriller, Delon plays Gerfaut, who comes to the aid of a man laying wounded in the road, not knowing the man has taken two bullets to the belly. Soon he becomes the target of the killers, who see him as a dangerous witness. But Gerfaut has been around the block a couple of times and he won’t be so easily eliminated. 

Both films were directed by Jacques Deray and have been fully restored. They are in French, with English subtitles.

Cohen’s ‘Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 4’ Coming to Blu-ray Dec. 8

Cohen Film Collection Dec. 8 will release The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 4 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The set will include legendary comedian Buster Keaton’s films Go West and College, both of which he starred in and directed.

In 1925’s Go West, Keaton plays an idealistic young man who heeds the expansionist call of Horace Greeley and hops a freight train westward to meet his destiny, first in a teeming metropolis — where he is roundly trampled by rush-hour foot traffic — then into the ranch lands of Arizona. His attempts at bronco busting, cattle wrangling, and even dairy farming all end in hilarious failure, but when a trainload of steer are unleashed on the streets of Los Angeles, the young man decides to undertake an unorthodox, single-handed round-up.

In 1927’s College, Keaton’s ode to varsity life, he stars as Ronald, a small-town, academically-inclined freshman who applies his wiry physique to a series of sports, in order to impress a fellow student (Anne Cornwall). He seems destined for failure, but when Mary is accosted by an overzealous rival (Harold Goodwin), Ronald discovers within himself an untapped wellspring of athleticism.

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Two Classics on the Way From Cohen Film Collection

Cohen Film Collection has announced the April 21 release of Pandora & The Flying Dutchman and The Europeans, coming to Blu-ray Disc, DVD and digital platforms.

Shot on location in Spain, Pandora & The Flying Dutchman is a 1951 British Technicolor drama film directed and written by Albert Lewin, and starring Ava Gardner and James Mason.

Lewin, who specialized in fine literary adaptations (The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Moon and Sixpence), based this 1951 film on the legend of the Flying Dutchman. In this tale, however, the Flying Dutchman is not a ship but rather a man with a sinister yet romantic mission. The story begins when a yacht arrives in the Spanish seaport of Esperanza carrying just one person, the mysterious captain Hendrick van der Zee (Mason). There he meets American nightclub singer Pandora Reynolds (Gardner), a beauty who men will kill and die for but who has never loved anyone.

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Bonus features on the double-disc Blu-ray and DVD include director Albert Lewin’s final film, the 1957 adventure movie The Living Idol; a Hedda Hopper trailer; restoration trailers; alternate openings; restoration comparisons; and the 1957 Playhouse 90 episode “The Death of Monolete.”

The Academy Award-nominated The Europeans, originally released in 1979, marked the first Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by Henry James. The film stars Oscar nominee Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses), Robin Ellis (star of the original and remake of the series “Poldark”) and Lisa Eichhorn (cult classic Cutter’s Way, The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Set in the 1850s just outside of Boston, the film follows the wealthy and puritanical Wentworth family as their lives are upended by the not-so-welcome arrival of two of their European cousins Felix and Eugenia. Although suspicious about the reason for their visit, they are set up in a neighboring house on the property. While Felix enjoys the company of his cousins, Eugenia is a bit more standoffish when it comes to the real reason for her trip, as it becomes more and more apparent that she hopes to make an advantageous marriage with one of her wealthy cousins.

In addition to its Oscars recognition, The Europeans was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and best foreign film at the 1980 Golden Globes, among other awards worldwide.

Bonus features on both the Blu-ray and DVD releases include the original trailer, the restoration trailer, a conversation with filmmakers, and “Conversation on the Quad,” in which James Ivory discusses the making of the film.