As an impressionable 12-year old, young Antoine developed a crush on his local portly hairdresser. Not only did he fall in love with the woman, but he also became obsessed with the haircutting experience as a whole; so much so that when his father questions him at a family dinner about what he wants to grow up to be, he responds by saying he wants to be a hairdresser’s husband. The relationship is severed when one day, on his way for yet another haircut, he finds the woman dead. Flash-forward some 30 (or more) years, and Antoine is still borderline obsessed with the notion of becoming a hairdresser’s husband.
Soon he meets Mathilde, a woman that appears to be quite a bit younger than him, who owns her own barber shop. He immediately falls head-over-heels in love with her, and in the middle of his initial haircut, he bluntly asks if she’ll marry him. Minutes later he apologizes for his forwardness, but Mathilde surprisingly accepts the offer and the two are married. In the years to come, they carry out a near perfect romance, entertaining the shop's clientele and never seeming to lose their undying passion for one another. But a storm is literally brewing, and it may bring doubts and fears that won’t be easily shaken.
The Hairdresser’s Husband is an absolutely quirky love story that could only emerge from French cinema and actually be taken seriously. Films such as this would be shunned in Hollywood, especially considering the glossy and assertive nature that is generally used in the states. Here, director Patrice Laconte pours forth unabashed eroticism that oozes with conviction. You’ll never doubt that these two characters aren’t utterly consumed with one another, and it’s all done with such lovingness that you won’t second-guess why Mathilde allows Antoine to do some of the odd things he does (like copping a feel while she cuts a customers hair, without one word spoken between them). It’s just their peculiar way of showing affection to one another, and it’s all surprisingly believable.
While it’s clear that Laconte would like you to believe that this story is taking place in the real world, giving little indication otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed not to realize this is pure fantasy. For one thing, Antoine and Mathilde’s relationship is unquestionably one only seen in fairy tales, where everything just seems to fall into place and no bad will ever come to them. They have only one disagreement throughout the years (and it may well be the mildest confrontation in couples history), and are perfectly content with living out their days within the confines of the salon (they even get married there). Add to that the fact that Antoine just happens to find the right woman to play up to his quirks and fetishes (in 5 minutes no-less), and it's pretty apparent that The Hairdresser’s Husband is taking place in a Utopic wonderland of lust and desire. Alternately, one could almost look at the film as a cerebral journey through Antoine’s mind, as Mathilde is so perfectly in tune with his needs, ones that he has wished for all of his life, that it all seems too good to be true.
Technically, The Hairdresser’s Husband is extremely accomplished. The overall look of the film is highly pleasing; with a muted, pastel color palate and an almost ethereal, dreamy haze that lends itself well to the feel of the picture. Jean Rochefort and Anna Galiena are excellent in their respective roles, and without their top-notch performances, the chemistry onscreen wouldn’t be half as believable as it is. Their relationship is made up of coy looks and body language just as much as actual conversation, and both of them manage to convey a range of different emotions with nary speaking a word. The film is also full of nice little nuances, such as Antoine’s hair becoming shorter and shorter throughout the runtime, various points where Antoine is shown as his 12-year old counterpart to impart the child he still is inside, and his unusual infatuation with Indian music.
Surprisingly unpretentious and heartfelt, The Hairdresser’s Husband is an unorthodox love story, full of laughs, tears, and inextinguishable passion. While I’m not generally a fan of romantic cinema, The Hairdresser’s Husband isn’t your average entry into the genre, and is a tale that even the most hardened of cinephiles should enjoy.
The last company you’d associate with a film like this would be Severin, the self-proclaimed “Criterion of smut”, but that’s exactly who’s behind the US release of The Hairdresser’s Husband. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and looks absolutely beautiful. The transfer does the excellent framing and camerawork proud, with no artifacts of note and vibrant colors. The original French audio is given a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, and for a film as quaint as this, it does the job just fine. Optional English subtitles are included, and I didn’t notice any errors.
On the extras front, we get two lengthy sit-down interviews, one with director Patrice Laconte (the first part of a two-part interview, the second of which is on Severin’s sister Laconte release, The Perfume of Yvonne), and the other with actress Anne Galiena. Laconte relays a ton of interesting stories on his career, including one about how Jean Rochefort (who plays Antoine) told him he’d never make it anywhere in the business after working with him on his first feature film, only to become good friends years later, turning out to be one of his most frequently used actors. Galiena speaks about how she came to be in the film and her work in cinema in general. All in all, she seems like an extremely nice woman. The disc is topped-off with the film’s theatrical trailer.
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