La Moustache left Judge Eric Profancik with nothing but stubble.
"What if I shaved my moustache?"
Pulling up information for La Moustache on IMDb gave me a small pang of excitement. The synopsis suggested the type of movie that I enjoy very much: one that messes with the characters' minds and yours. I love to sit down, watch a movie, and find myself bellowing "What the heck is going on?!?" Is the character going crazy, is it a sick practical joke, or is the world gone awry? Keep me confused until the end and give me a sweet resolution and you have me. I could rattle of some great movies that fit this bill, but I'll defer to my weakness and bring up a Star Trek episode instead: "Frame of Mind" from the sixth season of The Next Generation. It's one of the best episodes of the series because it appears Riker has gone mad. You've known this character for five years so you can't believe that's happening.
But what is really happening? The quest to find the answers is the fun part!
Facts of the Case
Marc (Vincent Lindon) decides on a whim to shave off the moustache he's worn forever. Oddly, nobody notices the change. His wife, his friends, his coworkers, nobody says anything to him about the disappearance of his moustache. At first Marc is annoyed, thinking it's an elaborate prank played by his wife. But then his entire existence is thrown for a loop when his wife tells him that he's never had a moustache. Marc rapidly sinks into a state of depression, believing he's lost touch with reality.
I lost track of how many times I said "what the heck is going on" in La Moustache. I loved the fact that this movie was messing with my mind, constantly challenging me to find a rational explanation for the weird twists on reality. In this slim, eighty-four minute movie, about seventy-five minutes are filled with this dark puzzle. Sadly, those last ten minutes are a disappointment.
The problem with La Moustache is that it fails to give us a satisfying resolution. It's vague and nebulous, allowing the viewer to come to his or her own determination of what is going on in Marc's life. In searching the web, I've found well over 90% of comments line up with my thoughts (or I line up with 90% of everyone else). We enjoyed the movie, but the movie fails to resolve the dilemma. This failure seems to imply a certain ending, which is wholly unsatisfying, destroying the intensity of the buildup. At least in "Frame of Mind," somebody saves the day and explains everything.
I guess I'm the type of person who needs an explanation—or at least a good guidepost to point me in the right direction. So how can I like this type of movie when the majority of them end in this fashion? All I can say is that I've seen enough where the resolution is far more resolved than the one I saw here.
Obviously I'm being specifically vague on the narrative of the film, because if you do end up seeing it, I don't want to ruin anything for you. There are some magnificent twists and turns in La Moustache, and detailing them ahead of time will ruin the surprise of Marc's journey.
But there's a chance that you may already know the full tale, for La Moustache is based on the novel "La Moustache." Of further coincidence, the writer is also the director of the movie, Emmanuel Carrère. I got the distinct impression from the bonus features that Carrère is quite popular across the pond, but I am not familiar with any of his previous works. I also got the distinct impression from that there's more going on in the book than the movie. You have to wonder if the answers are in the book.
La Moustacheis enjoyable for its bleak journey through sanity, which is only possible because of the superb performance by Lindon. As Marc, you can see a happy, sane man slowly crumble into a deep depression. As one event after another unfolds, Marc slips further and further away from the ones that he loves, grasping at the threads of reality trying to prove that he is sane. It's a subtle performance, with his eyes and face conveying the tragedy of the situation. You watch as he becomes hollow from his struggle. Without Lindon's performance, La Moustache would be a total failure. The only other actor of note is Emmanuelle Devos, who plays Marc's wife Agnès. While she turns in a good performance, Lindon's overshadows hers. Additionally, you don't care as much about Agnès as your brain tells you she's playing a very mean joke on her husband.
The DVD has a few problems as well. First up is the 1.85:1 anamorphic print, and it does have some significant problems: a few scenes have incredible amounts of grain and pixelization. Do walls squiggle and move that much? Outside of that, the film is soft and mellow, with a subdued palette and muted details. This is probably an artistic choice rather than a flaw. On the audio front, your only choice is a Dolby Digital 2.0 French mix (with English subtitles) that adequately conveys the dialogue. I detected no hiss or distortion. However, there are many moments when the background score is pumped up and is too loud. This is also an artistic choice, as these moments usually come during lulls in the dialogue; however, it is still overpowering. But, then again, that's probably some symbolism I'm missing. Using extracts from Philip Glass' "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra" was an excellent choice, as the violin expertly conveys Marc's agitation.
The disc contains a few bonus items, all in French with English subtitles. At the top of the menu is a making of featurette (20 minutes) that left me still asking questions. It wasn't deep enough for me to find the answers I was looking for. Next and mostly last is an interview with Emmanuel Carrère and editor Camille Cotte (20 minutes). It's a mildly interesting and engaging conversation about the movie that reveals a few more details, but this, and the making of item, are both watch once and never watch again. Rounding things out are trailers for La Moustache, A Heart in Winter, Gilles' Wife, Tous les Matins du Monde, Changing Times, and May 6th.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One minor nitpick is the lack of exposition to Marc and his moustache. The movie pretty much begins with him contemplating the shave and then the shave. It would have been nice to know a bit more about him before the shave, but I'm sure that's exactly the point.
Despite the wanting ending, La Moustache is tense, unnerving, and disturbing. Vincent Lindon gives an amazing, tortured performance, and the movie will take you places you never expected. Because I'm personally not so smart with symbolism and open-ended endings, I'm not going to let my dismay dissuade others. Therefore, I recommend you rent La Moustache. It's an intriguing movie, quickly paced, gripping, and oddly satisfying. I cannot recommend this for purchase due to the significant video errors.
La Moustache is hereby found guilty of using a dull razor.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Lorber
• Making of Featurette
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