The Drop Box

February 3, 2008

La Moustache (2005)

La Moustache poster 

“What if I shaved my moustache off?” Marc (Vincent Lindon) asks his wife, Agnes (the always excellent Emmanuelle Devos). “No idea. I like you with it. I don’t know you without it.” And so immediately, willfully and with some pleasure, Marc shaves his moustache off. But instead of being surprised or dismayed, Agnes doesn’t notice at all; their friends Serge and Nadia, with whom they dine later that night, don’t notice anything unusual either. Marc doesn’t bring it up, but he’s visibly shaken; and worst of all, when he finally does confront Agnes, he’s told he never had a moustache – more than a bit upset, he thinks he’s the victim of an elaborate joke orchestrated by his wife. 

This is just the beginning. When Marc goes to work the next day, his co-workers, too, fail to notice the change; he digs out a set of photos of him with a moustache – we see them – Agnes picks them up, presumably to look at them, but when they go missing she denies they ever existed; he receives a call from his father – we hear his father’s voice – only to be told that his father’s been dead for a year; and when he asks Agnes about a dinner date with their friends Serge and Nadia – whom we’ve met – Agnes doesn’t know who he’s talking about. Either Marc has lost his mind, Agnes has lost hers, or Agnes is trying to drive Marc mad. Nothing is certain, however – we’re not offered a solution. 

Emmanuelle Devos and Vincent Lindon in La Moustache  

La Moustache is a portrait of a marriage in free fall; but it’s also an inquisition into the nature of communication: Marc and Agnes have lost their common language, the signposts of their shared experience. Marc’s moustache is the beginning of the fall – it was real and now it’s unreal. Soon, unreality is overtaking reality: Marc and Agnes argue more, the gaps in their understanding turn into chasms and they’re lost amidst two competing visions of madness. As La Moustache would have it, any notion of a stable reality is belied by a psychological chaos that threatens to overwhelm us at any moment. It’s a chaos all the more powerful for being rendered so vividly: each move director Emmanuel Carrere makes towards this chaos is jolting; each step closer to this madness is maddening; we are one with Marc – confused, unhinged, unreal…

The French have been making some wonderfully bewildering films recently. Other titles include The SentinelThe IntruderLemmingCache… Dissolution is the hallmark of these films: plots are established, only to be willfully upended; characters drawn, then undrawn; dreams, mental illness and the supernatural are given the same status as objective and subjective reality, which exist nominally, if at all. We are in a new, much more problematic world – unmoored, tense, jangled. We literally do not know what is happening. It may be premature, but it seems a new genre is being born: taking elements of noir, suspense and the thriller; mixing in heavy doses of philosophy and psychology; awash in almost absolute ambiguity. Hitchcock and especially David Lynch are its aesthetic forebears, but the fertile ground in which the genre has taken hold is France’s. For those of us who don’t mind a little challenge, there is a wonderful new type in film: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – call it a puzzle.

Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Devos in La Moustache 


1 Comment »

  1. I’ve just completed viewing this film, and was so intrigued to look up any information and found this review. Vincent Lindon superbly takes on the role of Marc, and had me completely convinced of his character’s sanity, and his sense of being lost and misunderstood. The marriage in a freefall??? Absolutely, but Marc is not willing to loose her, no matter how unstable/deceptive she is… Whichever point of view one takes, Agnes could be percieved to be either crazy or simply manipulative. In the beginning, I chose the latter, thinking that she and Bruno were having an affair, and committing Marc was a simple way to remove him. Later though, I began to see that Agnes was consistently inconsistent, leading me to believe she’s off her rocker. Excellent film. 5 stars.

    Comment by Alan — June 14, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

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