Patrice Leconte DVD Box Set

Complaints? No La Fille Sur le Pont which, in these days of HD and big screens, would have looked AMAZING. But never mind. Presumably that'll be in volume two, alongside The Man On The Train and Intimate Strangers. What we do have with this fabulous five-disc set is the chance to rediscover a few older jewels from Patrice Leconte's impressive CV. His name has long been synonymous with quality — but it still comes as a surprise to be reminded of just how much quality, particularly in this 'mid-period' of 1989 to 1996.

The Hairdresser's Husband (1990)
The film that brought Leconte (briefly) to the attention of the mainstream audience, The Hairdresser's Husband was a crossover hit and it's still easy to see why. As a child Antoine (the excellent Rochefort) loved having his hair cut and he fantasised about marrying a hairdresser. Then he marries Mathilde (Galiena) and the fantasy comes true. Rochefort's performance, as the unlikely passionate "hero", remains a thing of beauty and the film, I'm delighted to report, has lost none of its charms in the (yikes) 18 years since release.

Monsieur Hire (1989)
Leconte's range is astonishing, as the above and Monsieur Hire prove. The former is one of the sweetest, most passionate tales ever and the latter is an equally excellent but thoroughly depressing psychological drama, based on a novel by Georges Simenon. A girl is murdered and suspicion falls on Hire (Michel Blanc). Why? Because he lacks social skills, lives alone and his neighbours find him strange. No smoke without fire? A study of 'normality'? A cutting indictment on modern life? It's probably all of the above and arguably remains Leconte's finest hour.

Le Parfum D'Yvonne (1994)
More burning sensuality with this reminiscence of an idyllic summer spent, unsurprinsingly, with an aspiring actress called Yvonne. It's good but probably the slightest film in this collection — and giving it such direct comparison with Hairdresser, Hire etc., doesn't help.

Ridicule (1996)
Perhaps Leconte's most ambitious project — save, arguably, for the ultra-stylish La Fille Sur Le Pont — this lavish costume drama (a deserved BAFTA-winner) is a witty satire on the court of Louis XIV and, indeed, the social mores of modern life. An impoverished nobleman (Berling) wants to drain a disease-infested swamp on his land but needs the King's financial assistance. In order to get that, he realises that he needs to elevate himself in court circles. And in order to do that, he must demostrate the sharpest of sharp wits. A beautifully shot, classy and pointed affair.

Tango (1993)
Like ... Yvonne, Tango is a decent enough film that suffers from a closer association with Leconte's three finest hours. However, given that those are also three of French cinema's finest hours, there are many films that would suffer in comparison and Tango is still a pleasing dark comedy about Vincent (Bohringer) a stunt pilot who murders his wife and her lover. Surprisingly acquitted by the judge (Rochefort), Vincent discovers his freedom came at a cost. The judge needs Vincent to murder his daughter-in-law. Essentially a road trip — judge, his (imminent widower?) son, the murderer — this is a strange but funny analysis of relationships.

EXTRAS *** Not bad at all, basically. A newly commissioned "does-what-it-says-on-the-tin" documentary entitled Leconte on Leconte; a making of Ridicule featurette; a short film, La Famille Heureuse. The Hairdresser's Husband is also a new transfer, which is nice but less special feature and more showing off a film to its best on DVD which is, surely, the whole point?

Neil Davey is a freelance writer who specialises in things you can do sitting down, such as travelling, eating, drinking, watching films, interviewing famous people and playing video games. (And catching the occasional salmon.) Neil is the author of two Bluffer's Guides (Chocolate, and Food, both of which make lovely presents, ahem), and, along with Stuart O'Connor, is a co-founder of Screenjabber. Neil also writes / has written for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Square Mile, Delicious Magazine, Sainsbury's Magazine, Foodism, Escapism, Hello! and Square Meal.

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