American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The hairdressing shop is their ocean liner, their lives are a cruise around the world. They will sail the Nile, kiss in the shadows of the Great Pyramids, see the sun set on every earthly paradise, and it will always be exactly like this. Perfect. "The Hairdresser's Husband" (1990) tells the story of two romantics besotted with love, living in a French hairdressing salon, she reading magazines on her perch by the widow, he working crosswords on the red leather bench, the sunlight flooding in. The yellows, blues, tropical colors. The exotic music he dances to. Occasionally at some unheard signal their eyes meet and they smile in shared bliss.
Isn't it pretty to think so. What is remarkable is that they both fully agree on this vision. From his early adolescence, Antoine (Jean Rochefort) has desired only one thing in life, to be a hairdresser's husband. Many men have been attracted by the beauty of Mathilde (Anna Galiena), but until now, in her early 30s, none has been perfect. Perfection. That's what they're looking for. He has known the barbershop for years. When old Monsieur Ambroise (Maurice Chevit) retired, he gave it to her, for she would carry on in his tradition. One day, she gives Antoine a shampoo and a trim, and he says, "Will you marry me?" She doesn't answer. Two weeks later he comes in for his next visit. She tells him yes. Her answer is yes.
"The 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.
The film is awesome in how it begins, how it continues, and how it ends. It is profound. It is about our foolish dreams. I doubt it has ever found a single viewer who yearns to be a hairdresser's husband, but it allows us all to understand such a thing is quite possible. He isn't a hair fetishist. He is a hairdresser fetishist. Leconte shows us the very moment when he was seized by his desire. His young eyes are wide and solemn as he glimpses in a gap in another hairdresser's blouse that form we all learn, as our first lesson, is the source of all goodness, love and comfort: a woman's breast. He is lost.