Salon of love

From the French director ofthat intriguing study ofobsession Monsieur Hire comes another exercise in singular desire, film The Hairdresser’s Husband. Trevor Johnston meets filmmaker Patrice Leconte and discovers the connection between the eroticism of shampoo, Arabian music and woollen bathing trunks.

In a statement accompanying his latest movie. The Hairdresser's Husband. director Patrice Leconte reflects as follows. ‘Ever since I was little.’ he writes. ‘I‘ve always enjoyed going to the hairdresser. When I was about twelve or thirteen my enjoyment became even more intense. This

"was when I started going to a woman hairdresser.

More than anything I loved the way this woman tended to me. She smelled good. she was gentle and her voice was very calm.

‘I figured that whoever lived with her must be the happiest man in the world. From then on, I swore to myself that one day I‘d marry a hairdresser.

‘Fate had other plans for me.

It was doubtless my failure to marry a hairdresser that gave me the urge to write this film. this story that might have been about me.‘

These words crystallise the simple crazy conceit at the heart of this unique tale of love and passion amidst the shampoo bottles and washbasins of a quiet provincial hairdressing salon. Following the dark romance of the lonely Monsieur Hire’s unrequited amour. Leconte has come up with another offering that gleams with the luminosity of long summer days yet hides a characteristic melancholy at its core.

Sporting a close suedehead crop himself. Leconte looks almost like a diminutive version of The Hairdresser's Husband‘s leading man Jean Rochefort. but he casts aside any notions of the film as absolute autobiography. Leconte might term the proceedings ‘a false tableau‘. but as he deftly cuts back and forth between one man‘s boyhood and maturity. the sense ofa life quietly ebbing away in time is most affectineg caught. From childhood embarrassment at wearing woollen trunks with absurd pom pom attachments. knitted by his mother. we move to an initial pubescent sensual experience in the salon of the amply-proportioned town coiffeuse. who has conspiratorially left her blouse unbuttoned to allow the youngster‘s confused, eager gaze unhoped-for access to the creamy expanse of her bosom.

That seals it. From then onwards our protagonist


3 \\\ c \\

it proves to be. many years later. when he walks in the establishment run single-handedly by the delightful Anna Galiena.

Here begins an ‘ideal love‘ where both partners seem to exist only for each other. the tiny salon both a boundary to their life together and a temple to their reciprocal desire. Risking the tenderest moment oferoticism together while she tends to a customer‘s flowing locks. they have a relationship where instinctive playfulness meets a placid mutual satisfaction.

‘More than any ofmy films. this one gave me sleepless nights.‘ sighs Leconte. ‘I would keep on asking myself. “Why am I making this film? Who‘s going to be interested?“ Sometimes. though. I think that too many questions can constrain your imagination. When I have an idea for a film I usually turn it over and over in my mind for quite a while. then it‘s “OK. let‘s go!“ and. without elaborate planning or anything. I just get it down on paper. I begin at the first line of the screenplay and finish when I get to the last line. I just write.’

This quite instinctive approach is probably the key to that barely definable something that makes The Hairdresser's Husband such a pleasure to

is convinced that he will marry a hairdresser and so

Jean Rochelort and Anna Gallena in The Hairdresser'sllusband

watch. Certainly. it‘s a slight piece. a mere 80 mins long in the familiar compact Leconte manner. but as its hazy sensuality melds with another lyrical Michael Nyman score. the sense ofconfident brio required to put these ingredients together in this unexpected combination can hardly fail to impress.

‘People always ask me about the Arab music in the film and Jean's crazy dancing.‘ Leconte adds, anticipating a parting question. ‘I don't know really. I don't know why. but I always knew that the main character would like that sort of music. I just knew it. It evokes a kind ofscxuality. a feeling ofsunshine. It‘s exotic and inspiring. Myself. I’m a really bad dancer. You can‘t improvise a tango but this Algerian rai music is just so expressive that it gives you the freedom to move any way you want. There's something very liberating about that.‘

Sex. shampoo. Arab music and woollen pom poms: together on the screen at last. ‘Je suis un peu romantique.‘ shrugs Monsieur Leconte. And who's to argue?

The I lairdresser's Husband opens a! Glasgow Film Theatre on Sit/123 and Edinburgh Film/muse on

Mon 24.


The List 14—27June lWl 19