La Moustache, 2005

Popular novelist and first-time filmmaker Emmanuel Carrère takes a decidedly more affirming and compassionate adaptation of his twenty-year old dark, psychological novel on obsession, identity, and alienation for his debut feature, La Moustache. While getting ready for a dinner party with mutual friends, a comfortably settled, middle-aged married man and successful architect named Marc (Vincent Lindon) impulsively decides to surprise his wife Agnès (Emmanuelle Devos) by shaving off his well-worn moustache – a facial feature that he has sported through much of his adult life – for the occasion. However, when Marc subsequently realizes that neither Agnès nor their dinner hosts Serge (Mathieu Amalric) and Nadia (Macha Polikarpova) seem to notice the change in appearance, he begins to suspect that his wife has somehow involved his friends in the ruse, a wounded perception that Agnès tries to quell by insisting that he had never had a moustache. Frustrated by her intransigence to admit an apparent conspiracy in their seeming oblivion over such an obvious physical transformation, Marc attempts to catch Agnès in a lie by finding some trace of proof of his moustache’s former existence – a family photograph, a double take reaction from his colleagues, or even the retrieval of errant hair trimmings from garbage cans set out on the curbside for pickup – to no avail. Soon, Marc’s obsession to prove elaborate deception begins to place a strain on their relationship, as he begins to question the continuation of their life together after such a casual betrayal, even as he harbors increasing doubts over his own sanity and sense of identity. At the core of Carrère’s surreal and nightmarish descent into madness, disconnection, and fugue is a thoughtful, lucid, and penetrating exposition into the inevitable transformation of all human relationships from visceral passion to emotional partnerships, when a relationship inevitably begins to evolve – and sometimes, drift apart – through the passage of time (and comfortable familiarity), and lovers no longer see things through the same blissful prism of lovestruck intoxication. It is this inevitable transformation that is metaphorically represented by Marc’s existential crisis over his unnoticed, missing moustache – an illuminating personal and mutual journey beyond the superficial novelty of romantic love towards a deeper realization of true, shared intimacy.

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