La Moustache

A Parisian architect's sanity begins to unravel when an apparently harmless whim leads him to shave his mustache in writer-turned-director Emmanuel Carrere's adaptation of his own first novel. While soaking in his bath one evening before he and his wife, Agnes (Emmanuelle Devos), dine with friends, Marc (Vincent Lindon, in a fine, subtle performance) impulsively...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A Parisian architect's sanity begins to unravel when an apparently harmless whim leads him to shave his mustache in writer-turned-director Emmanuel Carrere's adaptation of his own first novel. While soaking in his bath one evening before he and his wife, Agnes (Emmanuelle Devos), dine with friends, Marc (Vincent Lindon, in a fine, subtle performance) impulsively shaves the mustache he's worn for most of his adult life, then waits to see what Agnes will say when she finally notices. She doesn't, or at least she pretends not to. Nor do friends Serge (Mathieu Almaric) and Nadia (Macha Polikarpova) seem aware of any change in his appearance when Marc and Agnes later arrive at their flat. Marc is convinced that Agnes is playing a prank and has asked their friends to play along, but when he finally confronts her later that night, she continues to insist he never had a mustache. Marc realizes how far Agnes is willing to take this pointlessly perverse charade the following morning, when coworkers Bruno (Hippolyte Girardot) and Samira (Cylia Malki) take no notice whatsoever of his missing mustache. Marc's suspicions deepen — has Agnes gone mad? is she having an affair with Bruno? — and his desperate attempts to prove the existence of a mustache he no longer has make his behavior appear increasingly erratic. Finally, as empirical evidence contrary to Marc's own assumptions about himself mount, his ideas about who he is begin dissolving like a bridge made of sand. Carrere's interest in notions of the identity — both our ideas about ourselves and the faces we show to others — is a longstanding one, and his true-crime account The Adversary, filmed in 2002 by Nicole Garcia, is a small masterpiece of madness and deception that ends in multiple murder. Carrere's gamble in filming his insane narrator's first-person account entirely through Marc's eyes is that viewers have no choice but to fully assume Marc's position — we clearly see the mustache on Marc's face and in the old photos he gathers as supporting evidence — and rarely experience the novel's effect of having been unwittingly led into an abyss by a madman we should have known better than to follow. Unlike, say, David Cronenberg, who manages to establish a crucial, critical distance between his audience and his schizophrenic protagonist in his adaptation of Patrick McGrath's similarly themed Spider, Carrere re-creates the insane mind through his camera, and diffuses his point about subjective experience by inadvertently raising questions about truth and the movies.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A Parisian architect's sanity begins to unravel when an apparently harmless whim leads him to shave his mustache in writer-turned-director Emmanuel Carrere's adaptation of his own first novel. While soaking in his bath one evening before he and his wife, A… (more)

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