Wednesday, May 24, 2006

La Moustache - Movie Review

La Moustache 2005

Far too often in cinematic circles, the term “Hitchcockian” is bandied about carelessly, used inappropriately and ultimately ends up suffocating any joy out of a moviegoing experience. So it was with trepidation and fear that we embarked on viewing the latest French thriller “La Moustache” which had been labeled “Hitchcockian” by more than one critic.

Turns out, they were right. For the most part. Here indeed is an intelligent thriller that takes a seemingly normal couple on a terrifying trip into thriller territory but bypasses any of the more obvious plot devices of that popular genre. No dead bodies, no world weary chain smoking detectives, no femme fatales. Sorry, kids. We’re talking domestic drama with a twist.

Vincent Lindon as Marc and Emmanuelle Devos as Agnès star as an apparently happy couple (We know it’s fiction from that premise alone.) whose everyday is interrupted by the most casual of offhand comments. “What if I were to shave off my moustache?” mutters the husband to the wife prior to a dinner party with friends. And so, with a seemingly innocuous flick of the razor, our everyday hero begins to enter into a world of madness. Or is it?

For you see, the newly smooth faced Marc begins to become unglued when his wife fails to notice any difference, their friends at dinner make absolutely no comment on his new look and far worse for the stability of his own reality – vehemently deny the existence of any moustache in question.

What first seems like a sick little in-joke between friends and lovers turns into a living hell for a man who begins to question his own memory, his own persona and ultimately his existence. All this might make for a cerebral or wordy existential non-drama in the hands of a lesser director, but Emmanuel Carrère in adapting his own novella to the silver screen is blessedly a visual stylist and assured hand at spinning a good yarn.

The film begins and ends with a visual of a body of water by night. While we could bandy about fancy phrases and psychological frippery about “memory being like water”, or the “ripples of memory” or “the washing of sins” . . . you get the point, don’t you? We simply fell in love with the director’s use of water as a visual metaphor for the unraveling of Marc’s sanity.

Once he reaches a breaking point in the scenario and attempts to reclaim his memory by abandoning his home to venture to the Far East – the film enters its most hypnotic phase. Marc’s complete devastation begins to manifest itself in a strange ritual of riding a ferry back and forth all day long staring at the rhythmic waters below and beginning to assume the air and appearance of a deranged vagrant.

Where the film takes us after his near climactic breakdown we will not reveal. Suffice to say that the mind is a very sensitive territory. The Hitchcockian aspects of this tidy little edge-of-your-seater are joyous in their simplicity. By taking a normal couple and infusing their everyday life with a mounting sense of terror, we are drawn into the proceedings and begin to feel Marc’s psychological claustrophobia. All in all a most satisfying journey into one’s man personal hell that began with the tiniest flick of a razor. Bless you all!

Directed by Emmanuel Carrère
Written by Jérôme Beaujour & Emmanuel Carrère
Based on the novel by Emmanuel Carrère

Vincent Lindon as Marc Thiriez
Emmanuelle Devos as Agnès Thiriez
Mathieu Amalric as Serge Schaeffer
Hippolyte Girardot as Bruno
Cylia Malki as Samira
Macha Polikarpova as Nadia Schaeffer
Fantine Camus as Lara Schaeffer

Cinematography by Patrick Blossier
Film Editing by Camille Cotte
Music – “Concerto pour violon et orchestre, 1987” by Philip Glass
Production Design by Françoise Dupertuis
Costume Design by Elisabeth Tavernier


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