Picks and Pans Review: The Hairdresser's Husband

updated 07/06/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Anna Galiena, Jean Rochefort

As a boy, the frequently coiffed narrator of this French tale of romantic obsession was made to wear a red wool bathing suit fringed with pom-poms; it would become heavy with sand and seawater, he informs us, and this provided a certain sexual stimulation. If only this movie had been about a boy fixated on his bathing suit, we would have had one of the most talked-about, if not necessarily cherished, French movies since The Red Balloon. Instead, and for no compelling reason, director Patrice (Monsieur Hire) Leconte lets his pubescent hero become fixated on hairdressers. In middle age he finally marries the hairdresser nonpareil—the willowy, vaguely triste Galiena (L'Argent).

Having no discernible occupation other than being Galiena's husband, Rochefort (Tandem) spends all his time in his wife's shop, eyeing her across the back of her customers' pates, massaging her thighs as she gives a shampoo, and occasionally putting on an album of Indian pop music and gyrating his way around the barber chairs. But, really, is this anyone's idea of obsession? The movie is almost chaste: The lovemaking is all rapturous deep breathing (and that fully clothed), photographed in an impeccable color scheme—washed-out blues and yellows—that makes the movie look like a commercial for a midsummer clothing sale. And it's hard to understand the attraction, physical or emotional, between Galiena and Rochefort, who (except when dancing) has the same droopy reserve as those fatigued spies who lurk around in John le Carré novels. (In French with subtitles) (Unrated)

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