De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen [1966]

05Mar12 – 8 – De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen [The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short] (André Delvaux: 1966)

THE MAN WHO HAD HIS HAIR CUT SHORT (De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen, 1966) had everything going for it be a drily satiric masterpiece on the subject of the narcissism inherent in timid obsessives, but the film makes an unfortunate and too easy turn at the denouement, as if the filmmakers didn’t trust their material. Or perhaps the fault lies in the novel on which the movie is based. But the first 80 minutes or so had me smiling, chuckling, and even laughing out loud.

Govert Miereveld is a teacher at an all girls high school who is married with two children and obsessively if secretly in love with graduating senior Eufrazia “Fran” Veerman who clearly doesn’t think of him as more than a teacher at her school, if she thinks about him at all. She graduates and because he anticipates that everything about his daily surroundings will remind him of her, he moves and takes another job (that people might think is demeaning, he tells us) as a court clerk. Several years pass and he unexpectedly meets Fran again, this time as the radiant and popular actress Fran Veen, and so on.

What kills about the film is the tone: dry, dispassionate, deadpan. Although there are some set pieces that are clearly meant to be recognized as funny (a necropsy in a graveyard that would have been milked to death for every sight gag imaginable in other directors’ and actors’ hands is that much funnier because it’s so understated), others are a lot more sly. The surreal haircut of the title is a scream, but there’s also an uproarious Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht pastiche that’s clearly modeled on “Seeräuber Jenny” but is performed straight without the slightest hint of a wink to the audience. I fear I’m praising it too highly, and the final 10 minutes almost ruin what came before, but I’m going for it. 8/10. (Beautiful print on the ‘tubes.) [3/5/12]

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