Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lip Tickler

Man In The Mirror: Marc makes the decision of a lifetime in La Moustache.


To wear a mustache or not wear a mustache is a style question every guy must answer once he hits puberty. For Marc in the French film La Moustache (2005), it becomes an identity crisis as he decides to shave his mustache one morning only to find everyone claims he never had one. His wife says Marc never had one. His co-workers say he never had one. It leaves Marc wondering if he's trapped in an elaborate joke, intense conspiracy or just plain lost his mind? Marc searches from the streets of Paris to the boats of Hong Kong trying to figure it all out.

La Moustache is stylishly directed by Emmanuel Carre're as he puts us in the Marc's shoes for his waking nightmare. The shots carefully construct Marc's point of view and builds tension by keeping things as mundane as possible. Storywise the film makes the most of everyday things like shaving, home pictures, phone calls to friends or relvatives to set off Marc's growing fears. It's well made and a winning performance by Vincent Lindon as the hang dog faced protagonist takes care of the key factor - caring about Marc. As Marc repeatedly has what he believes to be true be denied by others, Lindon's combination of outrage mixed with concern and resignation pulls you in.

I was impressed early on by La Moustache's ability to use minimal resources (no fancy special effects or expensive sets that I could see) to cleanly drive the story. Instead the director relies on strong performances from the actors and actresses to get his butterfly effect across. It's almost Hitchcockian in how every day events can cause fear or bewilderment. Though the tell tale sign of something amiss (repetitive stirring strings) gets a little old it is effective in tipping the viewer off.

Unfortunately after brewing it's potent mix of personal intrigue, La Moustache takes one plot twist too many in the final 20 minutes. I won't give away the ending other than to say I was really disappointed with it. The ending felt like a cop out after staying with Marc's plight for 90 minutes.

I'm a strong believer that pop culture mirrors general culture more than influences it, La Moustache is part of a sub genre that's been all over the place the last ten years. What La Moustache means to me is confusion, or fear of living in a state of permanent confusion. Movies like Memento, Muholland Drive, The Matrix and M. Night Shyamalon directed stuff all hinge on altered perceptions of reality where mystery and fantasy collide. As an audience we don't have all the facts at any given point, just enough to know something is happening of notice. Much like living in the 21st Century where important events happen and the public never feels they have all the information available to truly judge what's happening. And so it goes regardless of if this feeling is justified or not.

As the Kinks once sang, it's a state of confusion. La Moustache does a good job of pushing the paranoia buttons, yet after effectively stirring the pot it seems like the film makers didn't know how to end the thing. Up to the end Dixie was thinking seven and a half barks, after the ending Dixie says the ride isn't strong enough without a good reveal at the end. It's not as bad a fall off as say The Swimming Pool, just enough to make me feel like I was wading in the shallow end when I thought I was at the deep end.

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