As a young boy, the hero in Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband dashes out to the barbershop at every opportunity, no matter whether his hair is already cropped to a trim quarter-inch. For him, the place carries sensual associations that are endlessly intoxicating, from the subtle aura of shampoo and perfume to the lusty power of the generously endowed women wielding the scissors. One day, he makes an announcement: When he grows up, he aspires to marry a hairdresser. And in spite of his family’s horrified response, he goes on to do exactly that. What better dream than to find the thing that makes you happiest in the world and commit yourself wholly to it?
At a perfectly slim 82 minutes, Leconte’s film has similarly narrow aspirations: Celebrate the sensual and oh-so-slightly-bittersweet joys of life, and get out before they’re crushed by the banal practicalities and hassles of the real world. Some have described The Hairdresser’s Husband as pure fantasy, but it’s more about the distillation of one man’s most pleasurable moments, like savoring one really delicious meal while skipping all the forgettable ones. We don’t know what happened in the decades since childhood, but by the time that barbershop-loving boy has grown up to be played by the charming Jean Rochefort, he’s so certain of what he wants that he proposes to gorgeous barbershop proprietor Anna Galiena the moment he sits in her chair. Remarkably, it only takes a couple more visits for her to accept.
The remainder of The Hairdresser’s Husband is a tribute to the simplicity of their relationship: They enjoy each other’s company. They dance. They make love at every opportunity. The only time they ever fight is over a trivial item in the tabloids, but the sting is enough to keep Rochefort from ensuring it never happens again. As a follow-up to the international breakthrough Monsieur Hire, a Rear Window-like tale of voyeurism and unrequited desire, The Hairdresser’s Husband was an excellent palate-cleanser for Leconte, whose sole purpose is to translate just a fraction of Rochefort and Galiena’s joy to the audience. If for nothing other than Rochefort’s mesmerizing interpretive-dance sequences, the film succeeds swimmingly.
Key features: Substantive new interviews with Leconte and Galiena, as well as the theatrical trailer.