Nationality: French. Born: Paris, France, 12 November 1947. Education: Studied at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques. Career: Directed first feature, Les veces etaient fermes de l'interieur, 1976; often worked with producer Christian Fechner, and actors from the Cafe Splendide, the famed Parisian comedy cafe theater; cemented his international reputation with Monsieur Hire, 1989; has directed many commercials for French television, including ads for Peugeot and Carlsberg beer. Address: French Film Office, 745 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10151.
Films as Director and Screenwriter:
Les veces etaient fermes d'interieur
Viens chez moi, j'habite chez une copine (Come to My Place, I'm Living at My Girlfriend's)
Ma femme's appelle reviens (Singles)
Circulez y a rien a voir (Move Along, There's Nothing to See)
Les specialistes (The Specialists)
Le mari de la coiffeuse (The Hairdresser's Husband)
Contre l'oubli (Against Oblivion) (co-d)
Le batteur du bolero
Le tango (Tango); Yvonne's Perfume
Lumière et compagnie (Lumière and Company) (short Lumiere film)
Les grands ducs (The Grand Dukes); Ridicule
Une chance sur deux (Half a Chance) (co-sc)
La fille sur le pont (The Girl on the Bridge)
La veuve de Saint-Pierre (Widow of Saint-Pierre)
Moi vouloir toi (Me Want You) (Dewolf) (co-sc)
The Son of Gascogne (role)
By LECONTE: articles—
"Recontre: Leconte/Stevenin a propos de Passe-montagne," in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1979.
"20 questions aux cineastes," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1981.
Interview with P. Carcassonne in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1983.
Leconte, Patrice, and F. Cuel, "Rencontre avec Claude Ventura," in Cinématographe (Paris), March 1983.
Interview with D. Dubroux in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1985.
Interview with M. Ciment in Positif (Paris), July/August 1986.
Interview with F. Aude in Positif (Paris), May 1991.
Interview with S. Brisset in Presence (Paris), January/February 1993.
Interview with F. Aude in Positif (Paris), March 1993.
"S'il n'en reste qu'un," in Positif (Paris), June 1994.
"Ridicule," an interview with Michel Sineux and Yann Tobin, in Positif (Paris), May 1996.
"Ridicule and Acclaim," an interview with D. Noh, in Film Journal (New York), January/February 1997.
"Derision Maker," an interview with Trevor Johnston, in Time Out (London), 5 February 1997.
Interview with M. Roudevitch, in Bref (Paris), Summer 1997.
On LECONTE: articles—
Fieschi, J., article in Cinematographe (Paris), July 1979.
de Klerk, N., article in Skrien (Amsterdam), December 1991/January 1992.
Kelleher, T., "Triton's Hairdresser's Husband Leconte's Light Comic Return," in Film Journal (New York), July 1992.
Lenne, Gérard, Jacques Zimmer, and G. Grandmaire, "Patrice Leconte," in Mensuel du Cinéma, February 1993.
Audé, Françoise and Michel Sineux, "Patrice Leconte/De la comédie pour les comédies," in Positif (Paris), March 1993.
Thompson, A.O., "A Cinematic Melting Pot," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1996.
* * *
In 1989 Patrice Leconte earned international acclaim upon the release of Monsieur Hire, a sharp, clever thriller. Yet for almost a decade and a half, he had been thriving as a director of light, strictly commercial satires—smashingly successful at home but little-known outside France—which were crammed with physical slapstick, playson-words, and other assorted shenanigans. These films were amusing and nonsensical, with his casts including Josiane Balasko, Michel Blanc, Bernard Giraudeau, and other prominent actors from the French theater and cinema. A typical Leconte film of this period is Les Bronzes, a farce that chides Club Med-style vacation villages by contrasting two single males. One (Blanc) is hopelessly unsuccessful with the opposite sex, even in such ready-made surroundings. The other (Thierry Lhermitte) is a stud who finds it all too easy to seduce women.
So it seemed astonishing when Leconte directed Monsieur Hire, a film that was anything but funny. It is a psychological thriller, based on the same Georges Simenon novel that inspired Duvivier's Panique, in which Blanc appears as the title character—a bald, eccentric, middle-aged loner. The film is a revealing portrait of French-style provincialism in that M. Hire resides in a Parisian suburb where the status quo reigns, and where anyone who is different is viewed with suspicion. And M. Hire is different indeed. So he is the logical suspect after a young girl is brutally murdered, and is summarily and mercilessly hounded by the cop on the case. Monsieur Hire may be linked to a film like Les Bronzes in that both deal with men who obsess over women, seeing them not as human beings but as objects. Here, M. Hire has a voyeuristic obsession with Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire), his pretty young neighbor. But M. Hire is no comically inept male; rather, he is a lonely, affection-starved soul who eventually strikes up a friendship with the free-spirited Alice. Of course, M. Hire is not the kind of man to attract such a woman. Because he is blinded by his feelings for Alice and oblivious to her true nature, he ends up being manipulated and victimized.
Leconte's follow-up, The Hairdresser's Husband, works as a companion piece to Monsieur Hire. It is the deceptively simple story of Antoine, who as a young boy on the edge of puberty does not spend his time with other kids, riding bicycles or indulging in sports. Instead, he is constantly at the town barbershop, where he is smitten with the buxom haircutter. As a middle-aged man, Antoine (Jean Rochefort) can describe the woman in minute detail. Back when he was a boy, he decided that his sole goal in life would be to marry a hairdresser. And so he does. He proposes to the beautiful Mathilde (Anna Galiena) while she cuts his hair for the first time. She accepts, and they are wed. Both are content and the days pass, one after the other, as if in a dream. If all of this sounds slight, it is not. The film, as it focuses on Antoine and Mathilde's love and their attempt to shelter themselves from all that is bad in life, is crammed with profoundly deep layers of emotion. Like Monsieur Hire, it is a concise, knowing allegory about romantic obsession and how a man can be fascinated by a woman. The difference between the two films is that, here, love brings him peace. But how fragile is that peace? All lovers are destined to be separated by death, if not by cruel fate. In Monsieur Hire, a man is thwarted in his attempt to find his idealized love, to the point where his life becomes enveloped by tragedy. While a different (yet not dissimilar) man does find love in The Hairdresser's Husband, Leconte is worldly enough to know that, because of the very nature of human existence, such happiness is fated to be only temporary.
In Tango, a third Leconte feature, the filmmaker returned to his comic roots, but with a devilish twist. Tango is the story of a woman-hater (Philippe Noiret) who believes that "wife-killing isn't really murder." Via blackmail, he coerces another man (Richard Bohringer), who had killed his own wife and her lover, into murdering the mate of his nephew (Thierry Lhermitte), who is tired of married life and wants the freedom to play around. What sounds like a thriller actually is a freewheeling, ingeniously structured, pitch-black comedy about the manner in which men are endlessly fascinated by women but dislike being tied down by them. In this regard, Tango is an extension of the characters and themes explored in Monsieur Hire and The Hairdresser's Husband. These three films are evidence that Leconte has matured as a filmmaker, and that his days making frivolous farces are forever past.