Dear La Moustache,
We put a lot of stock into those physical attributes we control at a whim. Beards, nail color and length, haircuts and style, goatees, and mustaches. These are the pieces of us that stay, that grow organically and can yet be controlled seemingly at will. Weight and strength take time and effort to maintain or change. Clothes are not pieces of us, and thus cannot be called real parts of us. It is those previously stated aspects that allow us to know that while we are at the behest of a number of uncontrollable factors in many ways, we still reign supreme over our own lives and choices.
But what if this power, tenuous and illusory though it may be, were taken from us? What if the choices we made regarding our subtle physical attributes meant nothing to those around us? You are a movie that poses that question at first, and then begins to bring that same level of uncertainty to much larger canvas. You pluck that single piece of thatch from the comfortable roof that we build for ourselves against the uncertainty and insurgent lawlessness of our existence and then begin to tear the whole structure down.
Marc Thiriez has always worn a mustache. When he asks his wife Agnès what she would think if he shaved it off, she declares quite plainly that she would not recognize him without it. On a lark he decides to shave it off anyway, and makes a game of hiding his newly bare upper lip from her for some time. However, when he finally, dramatically reveals himself to her, she simply smiles at him. They go to a friend’s house for a birthday party, and no one else says anything about his lack of a mustache either. On the ride home Marc confronts Agnès about the rouse everyone has been perpetrating, only to get blank looks followed by anger and concern.
From this simple, devious beginning you embark on a tale that takes a look at the transient, fragile nature or certainty and reality. Marc is first annoyed-yet-amused by the lack of attention his shave has garnered, but that turns very quickly into anger and incredulity. The world seems to have forgotten something elemental to his character, and in that way they have robbed him of the agency he was certain he held over his life.
The differences between Marc’s understanding of the world, the circumstances of his life, and those expressed by the people around him begin to mount. What begins with a simple dispute over the history of a mustache grows with each and every passing day until the very foundations of Marc’s sanity are brought into question. Or maybe it is his wife who is losing her mind. Or the world. You evince a stubborn refusal to give a solid, determined answer to the questions that you pose, and while this makes a kind of thematic sense, there is a feeling of loss or confounding perplexity that comes with it.
The questions pile upon themselves until a final act excursion which begins to throw everything into a weird kind of relief. Whether this act is a brilliant subversion of expectations or a mishandled attempt at further mystery is up to the beholder to decide, and personally I wrestled with your choices in this final act for a while after our time together ended, and while part of me still wishes there had been more finality, more certainty, the uncertainty does feel more authentic to your nature.
Much of the intensity and oddity of your tale is ameliorated and made palatable by the strong performance of your lead, Vincent Lindon. He makes Marc’s every move seem logical, measured, and patient by comparison to the world around him. This performance, along with the direction and story, written by director Emmanuel Carrère based on his own novel, makes your tale well worth puzzling over for however many hours, days, or weeks it takes.
Still thinking about you,
Brian J. Roan