Title: La moustache
Language: French, Cantonese
Genre: Mystery, Drama
Director: Emmanuel Carrère
based on the novel of Emmanuel Carrère
Music: Philip Glass
Cinematography: Patrick Blossier
French author Emmanuel Carrère’s sole venture into feature filmmaking by far, LA MOUSTACHE is adapted from his own novel published in 1986, a head-scratching story about a middle-aged French man Marc (Lindon), whose life starts to collapse after he shaved his trademark moustache on a whim, and everyone around starts to behave that they have never seen him in moustache, including his wife Agnès (Devos).
So, under this presumption, there could be two possible explanations: either Agnès is right, so Marc must have some serious psychological issues should be treated with kid gloves; or, Agnès is lying, when having dinner at their friends’, Agnès is accused as an incorrigible liar by her ex-boyfriend Serge (Amalric), which might insinuate that an underhand conspiracy theory is in the pipeline. Cinematically, it is rather an intriguing premise, however, in hindsight, as the film turns out to be an experiment completely open to each individual’s own interpretation, Carrère knowingly oscillates between these two scenarios lest the plot would veer to either direction with no turning back.
Take the example of the photo albums Marc finds, it is a trip to Bali years ago and obviously he is sporting a moustache in every picture, but, instead of pushing forward his proofs to Agnès or his friends, he chooses to withhold it until the album goes missing, if that’s a slip of mind, later we clearly see his moustache in both the head-shots in his wallets and his passport, why not show them to contest his belief, or just visit his parents, who should know the truth, but no, because, it would channel the story into a dead-end, either Agnès is right or she is playing a bigger game to dupe him, either way, it would lose the mystical allure.
So, out of wits to keep the suspense rolling, Carrère employs a brisk geographical shift to Hong Kong, where Marc aimlessly and tediously moseys on ferry rides, an economical transportation in a metropolitan city (which might be used to save a fair amount of cost in shooting whilst the crew could enjoy their vacation), so as to buy some time to let his moustache grow back, then, bang! Surreal events materialise again, and viewers have no sooner recovered from the bamboozling revelation than the film reaches its succinct finish line, admittedly, it is an in-your-face anticlimax.
Masked as an existential fable, LA MOUSTACHE intrigues at first, but pretty soon loses its sway and resorts to absurdism and metaphysics, which could be an alternative to lift the bar, like Denis Villeneuve did in ENEMY (2013), but in this case, it only betrays the filmmaker’s incompetence to concoct up anything could possibly give a plausible justification, a cheap cop-out always tastes bitter and gets under one’s skin.