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In the suburbs of Paris, an old maid has just been murdered. Every body talks about that, except the misanthrope Mr Hire. The same evening, Alice, just getting out of jail, arrives and meets up with her lover Alfred again. They act as they do not know each other, for Alice went to jail to spare Alfred. But Mr Hire falls in love with Alice, and he suspects who the murderer is.Written by
In a tight-knit Parisian neighbourhood, a murder has taken place. Gossip leads to the belief that the murderer is Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon), an unsociable outsider.
As murder mysteries go, this one is unique and fascinating. The murderer is revealed early in the film. What takes place from then on is even more intriguing than most other murder stories.
Most fascinating is the portrayal of Hire - both as played by Simon and as written by Julien Duvivier (the film's director) and Charles Spaak. One can easily see why he is unlikeable in various scenes; yet, he is admirable for acting confidently and morally when he is unfairly treated with contempt by those who have much less character than he has. While anti-Semitism does not seem to be behind the mistrust of Hire, he is further isolated as he is the only Jew in the neighbourhood. The viewer also learns of Hire's isolation beginning in childhood even within his own family.
These opposite feelings toward this character are part of the richness of this story. While we feel great sympathy for him by the conclusion, a shocking revelation at the end leaves the viewer with other feelings: it seems that in Hire's extreme isolation from community standards, his actions and inactions contributed to his own problems.
There is also a theme about loners that goes beyond Hire. Two other characters seem to possess this trait. One is a clever detective who is very observant and is not in the least swayed by mob mentality. The other is the murder victim herself as the tributes to her mention that she more or less kept to herself.
As a director, Duvivier has done a superb job in keeping the suspense alive leading to a shocking crowd scene at the end that has culminated as the result of a vile mob mindset looking for a scapegoat. While there is so much to praise about "Panique", its greatest asset is how much it leaves one thinking after its completion.
Directing by Julien Duvivier
Screenplay by Julien Duvivier and Charles Spaak (based on the novel "Les Fiançailles de M. Hire" by Georges Simenon
Acting by Michel Simon
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