By Jasmine D. Giles
“La Moustache” (French, 2005). Directed by Emmanuel Carrère and adapted from his novel. Starring Vincent Lindon. The film was awarded the Label Europa Cinemas prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
Today’s cinema has become so excruciatingly predictable with its designations of specific formulas and tropes, that one can already know what a movie’s beginning, middle, and end will be based solely on the genre alone.
The one genre that can still seem to leave a person baffled and guessing from peculiar start to mind-boggling finish (if they’re executed well) are mysteries. The genre can encompass a multitude of avenues in order to achieve its goal of confusing and disorienting the viewer until the very end, and occasionally even beyond. So is the case with “La Moustache”.
This multi-award-winning film is about a man named Marc, who becomes virtually unrecognizable to everyone he knows simply because he shaves off his long-time moustache. He asks his wife how she would feel if he shaved it off, and she simply replies, “I wouldn’t know you without it.”
Of course he shaves it anyway while she’s away at the store and everything goes downhill from there. Neither she, his co-workers nor anyone else Marc knows seems to notice the distinct part of his face that has disappeared, which causes him to lash out, thinking they were playing a cruel joke. Alarmed and baffled, his wife snaps back at him, asking “What moustache?! You’ve never had one!” Marc knows he’s had his moustache for years, and so does the viewer, yet no one else can remember it. A stunned reaction by Marc, as well as the movie-goer, sets the tone for the Vertigo-like pilgrimage that Marc and the viewer must embark on in order to find out not only what, but who, went wrong.
Not too often does a piece of cinema leave a person with more emotions of puzzlement, uncertainty, and misperception than “La Moustache” does. Usually, while viewing a film, one is smug with the confidence that they have more knowledge of what is going on—and what is going to happen. This usually leads to yelling at the television set or movie screen—and sometimes a book—to try to let the character know what is unquestionably about to take place. With “La Moustache,” the audience is forced with the realization that they have the ability to do absolutely nothing but to wait in silence along with Marc. There is no security blanket when watching this movie. There is no comfort of having perceptive insight of the events that are happening—because you yourself are at a loss of what’s really transpiring.
“La Moustache” situates the viewer in a contiguous position where they are involuntarily walking side-by-side, experiencing every emotion that envelops Marc–and the reason is that for the one hour and twenty-seven minutes, you are, figuratively speaking, Marc. If you can handle the giddiness and emotional motion sickness that this movie entertainingly torments you with, this is definitely an indie movie you can’t die without seeing.