Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Hairdresser's Husband is here to welcome you

Roger Ebert, the man who knows too much, recently added Le Mari de La Coiffeuse (1990) -as the original French title goes- in his list of Great Movies. "It is about our foolish dreams", he writesThe Hairdresser's Husband is not only a great movie. It's a great, (imaginary) place, where people dare to be different, live disconnected from society and whichever norms it sets, where people are free to exist as they please with their sole compass crazy fantasies and childhood aspirations.

Jean Rochefort and Anna Galiena make an unusual couple; in his forties, he proposes the fist time he sees her, while she is about to finish giving him a haircut on a leather chair in her barber's shop. He doesn't even know her name. He pays and excuses himself before he leaves, only to come back two weeks after for one more haircut. She accepts his proposal before he has the time to tell her his name, let alone repeat the proposal itself. A calm life full of consuming passion awaits them.

After the most unconventional wedding scene I ever remember watching, after an uninterrupted fixation for one another, after many idle days and afternoons where Antoine does nothing but silently adores his long-awaited hairdresser wife Mathilde, the spell is broken. Ten years of peaceful co-existence, during which no friends, children or other incidents spoil their romantic bubble are too good to be true. Mathilde melancholically  sways in her 50s print dresses and wavy hair, content with the present, but with a hidden fear for the future. Too scared of the realistic possibility of suddenly facing loss, she decides to leave first.

Summers by the beach. Perfumes and after-shave as an alcoholic beverage. Newly-invented oriental dances. Human hair on the floor. Passion neatly combed back with brilliantine. Shiny sea-blue eyes -a child hurriedly-facaded by a mature man's body. Two anti-heroes that are noticeably immune to the Savoir Vivre commandments. Two souls who only know what is best for them and nothing else. On a whim. Don't question your feelings. Don't destroy your instinctive truth. Only she can fly you high.

* Dreamy soundtrack by Michael Nyman, coupled by joyful oriental music. A level of absurdity and surrealism so surprisingly pleasant that I will long for it forever after. The most stunning, different film I have seen for years; Leconte and his director of photography are true masters of creating atmosphere on a shoestring (it is, indeed, a film with interesting voice-over, quite some flash-backs and basic dialogue/action). On top of that, I had the chance to watch an original 90s flickering copy the Cinematheque of the City of Luxembourg was hiding in its vaults and I'm very thankful for my good luck.

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