A Promise (2013)

The movie is set in the pre-World War I days in Germany. It opens up with an ambitious young man Friederich, getting a job  and then becoming indispensable to his boss, Karl Hoffmeister. Friederich then meets the boss’ attractive young wife and before you know it he it tutoring their son.

Friederich and Lotte become very close. Like most of Patrice Leconte’s movies it moves very slowly as it closely examines its characters. We see Friedrich falling in love, as he continues to make Karl’s factory more efficient. Friedrich follows Lotte to church. He plays with Lotte and her son, Otto, in the yard.

We see Friedrich’s infatuation growing as he begins to ignore his girlfriend. When Friederich tells Lotte that they must stop living a lie, she gets mad at him. When Karl has a stroke Friederich helps Lotte with him.

Karl then tells Friederich that he wants him to go to a new business they are starting up in Mexico for two years. When Friederich tells Lotte she gets really upset. Now he realizes she loves him too. Friederich goes and they are both miserable.

When the war breaks out Lotte has trouble getting Friederich’s letters and hers are returned, and she is in a panic.

Before Karl dies he tells Lotte that he knew she loved Friederich. The years go by and they are separated for six years. They have not communicated for four years, but Lotte keeps writing.

The war ends and Germany has lost the war, but Lotte doesn’t care. Then Friederich returns. He tells Lotte that he is back in Germany on business, He is now settled in Mexico.

Friederich is kind of cold and their relationship seems to be over. Lotte Tells Friederich she hasn’t forgotten her promise.  The next thing you know they are on a train together and they are back together.  Now we see Nazis marching out on the streets.

A movie that didn’t get great reviews, but I enjoyed it.  Slow moving, interesting character studies.

Intimate Strangers (2004)

The story of a woman who goes in to a tax consultant, thinking he is a psychiatrist she has an appointment with, and tells him all of her intimate secrets.
As the meetings go on, and she finds out what he really is, the relationship gets crazier and crazier. Leconte seems to be obsessed with stalking, whether it is actual or in this case psychological.
The movie unfolded like a mystery and it had a great musical score. The movie, overall, really didn’t work that well for me. If it was a hidden black comedy, and the comedy was too hidden for me.
This movie was another of Leconte’s portraying a really odd couples. No one does that better than him.

My Best Friend (2006)

Another really good film by Patrice Leconte. In this one he has another odd couple : the gregarious taxi driver Bruno and the friendless antique dealer Francois. Francois didn’t know he was friendless until at his birthday dinner, his acquaintances told him he was.
After several random run ins with Bruno, Francois decides to see if he can help him to make friends. Bruno and Francois become friends and Francois becomes a better person.
The movie doesn’t end as well as it began but it is still very good. Daniel Auteuil who was in Cache, Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring as well as two other Leconte movies (A Girl on the Bridge and The Widow of Saint-Pierre), is an excellent actor who was again very good in this as Francois.

Monsieur Hire (1989)

I doesn’t seem like this movie could have worked. The main character is a creep who looks out of his dark room into the room of the young girl across the courtyard. The young girl is in love and is willing to do anything to help her loser boyfriend. The boyfriend is a murderer and doesn’t really seem to care about the girl. A detective wanders through the movie really confused as to what is going on.
There are no sympathetic characters and there is no one to cheer for. It doesn’t seem like the movie could be fun to watch, but it was great.
I guess this movie just cements it for me. No one is able to examine strange, weird, disturbed relationships better than Patrice Leconte, and make it fun to watch.
The Hairdresser’s Huband, The Girl on the Bridge, The Widow of Saint-Pierre , Man on a Train and this movie all examine unusual relationships with characters that are hard to identify with and sometimes even harder to cheer for, but are all fascinating to watch.
Patrice Leconte is a genius.

Ridicule (1996)

I am really beginning to like Patrice Leconte. This is the fifth movie I have seen by him and they were all really good.
This movie is about French society at Versailles, just before the Revolution, where the main source of entertainment seems to be using one’s wit to embarrass one another. If you lose in the battle, your social life at Court could be over.
When a poor country noble goes to the city to try to get some help for his area he quickly joins in.
Like in Girl on the Bridge, the first scene and the last scene mirror each other in an ironic way. The tables in both have turned.
A really good period piece that provides a really interesting view at a way of life that was just about to end.

The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000)

Based on a true story that took place in the Newfoundland islands in 1849. Two drunk men kill a man and one is sentenced to die for the crime. While in jail, awaiting the arrival of a guillotine, the captain’s wife takes him under her wing.
By the time the “widow” arrives, everyone in town, except the authorities, like the condemned man, Neele, and wants him to stay alive. When a refugee appears and takes the job of executioner, it looks like Neele is out of luck.
The Captain’s wife, Madame La, takes Neele out on a row boat and then forces him to escape but Neele doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble so he comes back.
The leaders of the town get their way, and the captain is replaced and recalled to France for court matial.
A strange movie for Patrice Leconte because it is a pretyy straight forward historical movie. Not much humor and no Arabian music but Leconte does explore the stangeness of the triangular relationship between the captain, his wife and the condemned man.
A very well done, interesting, historical drama by Patrice Leconte.

The Girl on the Bridge (1999)

Patrice Leconte knows how to make quirky movies and he knows how to make them well.
Adele is a girl who has been looking for love in all the wrong places and hasn’t had any luck. She ends up on a bridge looking to take the leap.
Gabor, hangs out on the bridges looking for potential suicides who he can convince to come work for him as a target for his knife throwing act, instead of taking the plunge.
Gabor finds Adele who agrees to give life one more chance. Gabor and Adele fall in love but Gabor never sleeps with his targets.
When she leaves him he can’t throw his knives any more and he hits the skids.A very strange love story that comes full circle in the end.
Strange, wonderful music, drama, magic and humor all mixed together to form a unique, entertaining and interesting movie. Strangest love story of all time? Maybe.

The Hairdresser’s Husband (1990)

This is a really quirky, pretty weird and thoroughly enjoyable movie. If you can just sit back and enjoy a movie without submitting it to rational analysis this may be a movie for you.
The main character, Antoine, starts having fantasies about his female barber when he was a boy. He also loves to dance to Arabian music. When he grows up he retains his two loves. When he falls for a beautiful hairdresser she agrees to marry him without really knowing him at all.
They have a fairy tale love affair and enjoy their life together. Their life is so wonderful that she decides to kill herself before their love can fade.
Roger Ebert says in his wonderful Great Movies reviewThe Hairdresser’s Husband carries their shared perfection as far as it can — further, in fact, than we might desire. Perfection admits no compromise. It is not possible in a world made of time and men and women. But how wonderful it can be. This 1990 film by Patrice Leconte is funny, as warm as a hug, as fanciful as a dream. It is a fairy tale set in a real shop on a real street with real people. Of course, the shop and the street exist only in a movie studio, and the people are characters, but that’s a movie for you. Film is an art form that permits perfection.”
He also goes on to say :

Patrice Leconte is a director who should be better known. Like Ang Lee, he never repeats himself. Each film seems a fresh start from a new idea. His flawless Monsieur Hire (1989) is also about a fetishist — a voyeur. That is its only similarity with The Hairdresser’s Husband. His Ridicule (1996), set at the court of Louis XVI, involved a provincial farmer, much agitated about the need for irrigation. Told that the king listens to no one who doesn’t amuse him, he learns to be funny. He was never funny before. The Widow of St. Pierre (2000), based on a true story, involves a man condemned to the guillotine on a remote French island off Canada. The colony lacks a guillotine. The courts are sticklers for the letter of the law. The condemned man and the warden’s wife undergo a transformation during the wait for the guillotine to arrive from France. It is very deep and moving.
My Best Friend (2007) is about a man who learns he truly has no friends, only acquaintances and associates. He hires a sunny taxi driver to instruct him in the act of making friends. Man on the Train (2003) stars French rock star Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort again, as a bank robber and a retired literature teacher. Circumstances lead the teacher to admit the robber as an overnight guest. Each old man envies the other, who represents a road not traveled. The Girl on the Bridge (1999) is about a professional knife-thrower who hangs around bridges looking for young women about to leap off them. He offers them a job as his target. There is always the possibility he might miss. If he doesn’t, they get an interesting job with lots of travel. If he does hit them, well, what do they have to lose?
I have never seen a bad film by Patrice Leconte. As you can see, they share no genre. They share no style, either, except his clear, sure strokes at the service of his story. I have been thinking for years of including him in the Great Movies collection, but delayed, unable to choose among them. I could make an excellent case for every film I mentioned.

I really loved this movie and I am looking forward to seeing the rest of his films.

Man on a Train (2002)

A gangster and a poetry teacher meet and become friends. They both seem to envy the life of the other. There is poetry, dialogue and music. There is not a lot of action, until the end, but the movie was fascinating throughout. It worked as a mystery, a comedy and a buddy movie.
The movie was directed by Patrice Leconte, who also directed The Hairdresser’s Husband. Leconte seems to have the ability to make great movies out of ordinary material. He also can mix humor and drama and really make it work.
Roger Ebert said in his review “I have seen The Man on the Train twice, will see it again, cannot find a flaw. The man gets off the train in a dreary November in a French provincial town, and falls into conversation with the teacher, who is quietly receptive. The teacher’s elegant old house is unlocked (“I lost the key”). The village hotel is closed for the winter. “I know,” the teacher says when the man returns. “I’ll show you to your room.” Over a period of a few days, they talk, eat together, drink, smoke, gaze at the stars. There is no reason for them to be together, and so they simply accept that they are.”
If someone described this movie to me, I would probably not have been interested. It doesn’t seem like it could work, but it does. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.