Rarely since the great days of Claude Chabrol - the master of the French psychological thriller - have we had suspense this good. And rarely since the great days of Hitchcock have we had a director as good as Chabrol. "Harry, He's Here To Help" is in a direct line of descent from these two fine talents, as expertly polished with black comedy and dry wit as it is with unnerving suspense.
Although Dominik Moll has only made one feature, he looks very much like a director who has spent his life making psychological thrillers, and how refreshing it is these days to find the shocks rooted in the minds of the protagonists rather than lighting up the screen like a crude fireworks display. It also makes a pleasant change - in terms of contemporary French cinema - to watch a film where the bistros and bars of Paris do not enjoy key roles and where middle class professionals are not thinking themselves to death.
Michel and Claire (Laurent Lucas and Mathilde Seigner) are a low-income, educated couple who - with three demanding daughters in the back seat - are on their way to their holiday home, a rough-and-ready stone pile which requires so much work that it consumes their entire vacation. On their way, in the toilet of a filling station, Michel is approached by Harry, a school acquaintance he can't remember, who then proceeds to invade Michel's life, twisting him every which way like a successful puppeteer.
Moll - whose approach is measured but tight - gives Harry, and increasingly Michel, enough ambiguity to keep you guessing, and the silence of the characters also tops up the tension. His highly individual take on responsibility versus freedom (particularly creative freedom) is as admirable as his plotting and pacing skills, not to mention fine choice of cast. A low-key beauty.