I have had a moustache for the last four years. Around three years ago, I made the fatal error of shaving off the lip warmer for my sister’s wedding. Aside from making me look about five years younger, I was a different person altogether, and found it difficult to identify with the fresh-faced man in the mirror.
Such an existential crisis is the stimulus behind Emmanuel Carrère enjoyably disorientating suspense thriller. Vincent Lindon stars as Marc, a handsome, successful Parisian whose life begins to unravel after he whimsically decides to shave off the moustache that has hung onto his face for several years. Happy with the transformation, his girlfriend Agnes (Emmanuelle Devos) fails to notice the change. Increasingly frustrated with her ignorance, he confronts her about it several hours later. Not only does she still not notice any transition, she refutes the claim that he ever had a moustache in the first place.
Marc is agitated, he shows Agnes old photos and rummages through the bins for the discarded hair, yet she still fails to see it. Is this some sort of practical joke? Losing grip of his decadent life, Agnes consults with his best friend’s and conspires to have Marc sent to a mental asylum, but he won’t go quietly.
A perfectly plain story, La Moustache toys with insanity and fractured realities. Carrère’s direction is strikingly similar to that of his French contemporary Alain Resnais. Assured movement but never forcefully pushing the narrative along, whether we consider Marc as insane or not, we are gripped with this mans’ internal and societal struggle.
The film’s highlights come from the beautiful violin concerto by Philip Glass, which soundtracks Marc’s spiralling descent from the smallest of moments to the gushing blows at the film’s end. Although the ambiguous plot is rather elliptical, La Moustache is a poised psychoanalytical drama which will play into the hands of Kafka worshippers. Looking like France’s answer to Clive Owen, Lindon is magnetic as the conflicted Marc, playing the complex role with small intricacies, leading to the crushing “man-on-the-run” final chapter. He also bosses a moustache too, an inspiration for all fellow ‘tache twiddlers.