Iain Gray Freelance Writer

You should have seen it: The Hairdresser’s Husband

There is a natural redoubt of embarrassment in the mind of the young, protection against that most heinous of onslaughts the sight of one’s parents dancing at a wedding.

The toe-curling mortification precipitated by such a vision is there to provide us with the knowledge that no-one should ever dance in public once over the age of forty. Ever.

Unless, of course, you are Jean Rochefort.

In The Hairdresser’s Husband, he is 60, he dresses like someone’s dad, and he dances. And, despite all this, he provides one of the coolest, most enduring images in modern cinema.

The story is simplicity itself. As a boy, Antoine is obsessed with his hairdresser her smell, her huge breasts, the whole process of having a cut. When asked what his ambition in life is, he states categorically that he wishes to be a hairdresser’s husband.

Fifty years later, he walks into the local salon de coiffure and meets Mathilde, the new hairdresser. He proposes marriage. The next day she accepts, and they start living a blissful, perfectly isolated life together in the shop.

And really, that’s about it a story of perfect, unconditional love and happiness.

Plus dancing.

Yes, Jean Rochefort, at 60, turns on a tape of Arabic music, and dances in the shop, sometimes to entertain an unhappy child, sometimes for Mathilde, sometimes just for himself.

Part John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, part Ricky Gervais in The Office, it is nakedly unskilled, wilfully abstract and beautiful. It is both symbolic of the willing abandonment of his soul for his true love, and representative of their unique and idiosyncratic relationship.

Rochefort and Anna Galiena (as Mathilde) are exquisite as the couple, and not for one second are we unconvinced by their love for each other.

High profile real-life movie couples who insist on working together (Brad and Angelina in Mr and Mrs Smith, Tom and Nicole in Eyes Wide Shut, Tom and Penelope in Vanilla Sky) could learn much by looking at this film.

Understated to the point of minimalism it shows that that there is no need to shout about a relationship (while jumping on a sofa, for example) or to discuss marital issues while avoiding machine-gun fire, if the knowledge of devotion is already secure between the two.

It is an acting masterclass on how less is often, if not always, more.

Finally, if you can bear the painfully honest, yet undeniably Gallic conclusion, this is a movie that can be revisited time and time again, and something that will stay vividly in your mind many years after Tom and Katie are as old hat as Travolta’s hip-wiggling schtick.


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