OldAle1 wrote: ↑
April 23rd, 2019, 11:26 pm
OK I watched this a few days ago myself and here's my take:
I saw Monsier Hire
when it was first released in the US almost 30 years ago, and my memory is awfully dim, so I'm not sure I would have recognized this as the earlier version of the same story - apart from the name of the title character of course, played in this film by the great Michel Simon in an uncharacteristically melancholy, almost subdued performance. He still manages to totally dominate the screen and give a "big" performance despite the lack of overt gusto - a tribute to the actor and to Duvivier's careful filmmaking I think. Essentially this is one of those "somebody's been murdered, let's blame the weird guy who's not like the rest of us" story, with Simon's Mr. Hire a rather misanthropic, sometimes rude intellectual and mystic who keeps to himself and resists the friendship of others or any real sense of community. One interesting element - never overt as I recall - is the origin of M. Hire - whose real name is "Hirovich". One year after the war, and I don't think many French filmmakers wanted to deal with antisemitism, and the possible hounding of someone to death merely for his (perceived) Jewishness - so it is little remarked upon, but it is there. It's all beautifully done, very noir I guess in many respects, though I can't say it bowled me over.
His excommunication from society happened before the events in the film, somewhat related to his Jewishness, but not entirely, he describes his time being an attorney and saying that despite being proficient at his profession he wasn't making any headway professionally. Wasn't getting the cases in through the door. He didn't appear to be a practising Jew but I don't think that's the point. He's not part of any club. As you say people saw him as weird, and so he turned being weird into a profession, which is pretty damned heartbreaking tbh. In terms or resisting the friendship of others or any real sense of community, that seems to be a reasonable move given the scumbags of the town. Simenon's writing is characterised by this, society as a vice that grips or crushes you, crime the inevitable result.
So as you might guess this one hit me quite hard, it felt very personal. I talk to people about M Hire a lot in my "rl". Just to be really maudlin, I remember as a kid being told the story of the ugly duckling, who didn't fit in and was very sad, but grows up to be a beautiful swan. And that was pretty comforting to me. But sometimes you just carry on being the ugly duckling.