Prime suspect in the murder of a young girl, Monsieur Hire - a quiet, balding, middle-aged tailor - spends much of his time secretly gazing from his window at Alice, who lives in the apartment opposite. His solitude, however, is broken when Alice, having glimpsed his face in the light of a storm, visits him in his room and bluntly asks why he spies on her. In this oddly touching, enigmatic adaptation of Simenon's novel, Leconte focuses less on the murder mystery - Hire repeatedly proclaims his innocence, but how sinister is his voyeurism? - than on the unexpectedly tender relationship that develops between watcher and watched, gently manipulating audience sympathies to create a poignant study of amour fou. Appropriately in a film concerned with voyeurism and loneliness, restraint is the keynote, with Michel Blanc's playing of Hire especially intriguing in its cool, sensitive understatement. But it is Leconte's direction that steals the show. Opting for subtlety rather than suspense, slowly but surely piecing together a jigsaw of brief elliptical scenes which mirror the nervy hesitancy of Hire's emotions, Leconte's narrative economy contrives to say a great deal about his hapless protagonist.
Cast and crew
Patrice Leconte, Patrick Dewolf