The Hairdresser’s Husband (1990) – Nothing Lasts Forever

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A story of a man, a boy fascinated by the charms of a voluptuous hairdresser, The Hairdresser’s Husband speaks of desire, lust, love, and expense of an intolerable admiration between two withdrawn couples, Antoine and Mathilde, played by Jean Rochefort and Anna Galiena. Coming from the heart of French cinema, the movie is a subtle psychological probing into the perversities of a boy turned man—much, much older—who worships the physiologies of his wife, and vice versa, yet with the incredulities of horror ever present in the beautiful mind of the sensual wife.

In this ambiguous movie, seemingly distraught by realism, director Patrice Leconte brings about a story of two lovers, sharing uncommon love and hailing from an unusual, unclear past towards one another—each seeking to fulfill the void in their lives and enriching the lives of both, in the process. The Hairdresser’s Husband is a narration of an event more so than a telling of a story of two couples wholly immersed in one another. A rather beautiful depiction of a man who had nothing else to do—all his life—than to love his wife, look at her with his eyes of passion, and serve as her all faithful lover, without anything else, significant, to do or perform. Antoine was categorically the hairdresser, Mathilde’s husband, in this stark presentation of love and lust.

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Leconte opts for a philosophical treatment of the exotic natures of human sensuality and the laws of attraction—from early youth until adulthood and beyond. An easy one-sided affair that begun during the pre-puberty years of a young boy (Antoine); his voracious lusting for a hairdresser much older (played by Anne-Marie Pisani) becomes the central sphere of his life, the mainstay, with Antoine unable to get past his attraction, almost fetish, for hairdressers and their juicy structures. Remember: I will throw myself under the bus, if you lose one pound from your body! Unable, as human nature is, to transform his desires, Antoine—at the age of 50 and above—finally marries his desired object, a hairdresser. The hairdresser, who is beautiful, sensual—awaiting the broadness of a man as Antoine to fulfill her life and reach the place where she felt, she belonged. In essence, Antoine’s obsession with such an erotic beauty from the laps of Nature and his pledge to become one, soul and body, with the gentlest species of her kind forms the basic premise of this provocative movie. Much rather a peek-a-boo into the passionate lives of a carnal man, who is living his dream—and a beautiful wife, living as the sole object of worship for her husband, but with a mysterious paranoia evanishing her sense of belonging, with every tick of the second; The Hairdresser’s Husband is what the title speaks—a narrative from a husband of a hairdresser.

Opting for a methodical style and a slow pace, the primary characters of Antoine and Mathilde comprise of 80% of the movie time, the occurrences, whilst the hair saloon is the center stage in this play filmed as a movie. The couple is such immersed into one another that they seek no more than just each other. Told as a retelling, from the words of Antoine, the movie has a feel of a memoir: a sublime memoir of the husband and his days with his highly desirable wife. While watching the movie, the viewer catches the vibes of witnessing a segment, an all important one, in the lives of two people—one, the narrator himself; second, the alluringly simple wife of this simply sensual man.

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Obvious as it would be, the film has a bold and mature theme—sex, sexuality, and the renovation of this sexuality into an unparalleled awakening of love and admiration for one another. As it stands, The Hairdresser’s Husband has much more than lust. The story moves beyond sexual reprising—chartering towards murky and intriguing topics of love, relating (not relationships merely), affection, and the utmost vows of marriage and marital bliss. Marked under one husband’s love for his wife and his passion for her; a wife’s sense of belonging to her husband—almost reaching devotional levels of soulfulness, yet ultimately falling short from the highs of unconditional love due to the plagues of desire and above that, the fear restricting this love saga to fly across with bodies spread—free from any anxiety or bondage.

The “hair” in the movie, rarely seen fallen despite the context, serves as the primary symbol—how it comes, how it goes; accordingly, people shape it, trim it in the manner they desire until a point comes when there is no desire, or the lack of capacity to desire. As a symbol, “the hair,” represents the flux of love, sensuality, and everything that is—in life. The Hairdresser’s Husband is rather a complex movie consisting of a complex theme that has been shot and filmed in a simple, subtle, and suggestive manner. Rich in motifs and symbolic meanings, the story, in actuality, lends a theoretical vision of the biological and psychological attitudes of humans in this temporal school of matter and spirit.

What The Hairdresser’s Husband does—it gives viewers a real image of eroticism in relationships and a casts a reflection of the chronological nature of love and desire. Treating sex as a form of worship in love, the movie has an actual feel of real incidents captured than a feel of a story performed or dramatized. In essence, The Hairdresser’s Husband is an exotic love story, an erotic romance that could perhaps typify the arbitrary state of love, ardor, and want. Must watch!

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