Harry, He’s Here to Help (2000)

“You have to overreact.”

‘Harry, He’s Here to Help’, directed by Dominik Moll in 2000, is a French psychological thriller. The title character, played by Sergi López, runs into an old school acquaintance, Michel, played by Laurent Lucas, and his family. Michel is traveling to his house in the country which he is doing up and Harry insinuates himself and his girlfriend, Prune, into the arrangement. It’s Hitchcockian but also has strong thematic connections to Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, notably ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ filmed the year before ‘Harry’. As in Highsmith’s story, a part of the excruciating pleasure of watching the movie comes from the tension created by the cloying and socially inappropriate ‘friendship’ between Harry and Michel, this taps into both our sense of creepiness and our sense of impoliteness. Harry is a blank character, without a past or, at least, with an unreliable past. He’s a stalker who carries out his stalking in plain sight and the thrilling aspect comes from the knowledge of the violence he’s capable of and the obliviousness of the family within which he is a cuckoo. In a sense, Harry becomes Hitchcock’s famous ‘bomb under the table’ that the audience can see but the characters cannot. What makes this even more powerful in this film is the presence of the passive and submissive Prune, as much a blank as Harry but this time even from the viewer. It’s a tight, taut movie, beautifully shot and edited mercilessly. It’s also not without humour: the excesses of Harry’s sharing, particularly about his sexual techniques creates a good balance with the rising tension.

Would I recommend it? Yes – tempting to suggest watching it with one of Highsmith’s movie adaptations or perhaps (and this suggestion came from someone else) ‘Calvaire’, a Belgian movie in which Laurent Lucas plays another man who has a really bad time.

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