La moustache (2005) Poster


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Ingeniously structured and passionately filmed...
ftabouring19 July 2005
Darkness prevails already at the very beginning of 'La Moustache', Emmanuel Carrère's proper adaptation of his novel of the same title, which he published back in the 1980's. Accompanying the opening credits is Philip Glass' perfectly composed and utterly gloomy Violin Concerto, which re-emerges throughout the movie and constantly supplies the global atmosphere of the film with an ominous and bewildering touch.

Welcome to this year's most abstruse film, and eventually the most challenging psychological experiment since 'The Machinist'. Presented at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in the 'Quinzaine des Réalisateurs' category - a category promoting abstract and rather unusual movies - 'La Moustache' follows the intricate story of Marc Thiriez (Vincent Lindon), an ordinary Parisian architect who slips into a vicious identity crisis after he spontaneously shaves off his moustache.

"How would you react if I shaved off my moustache?" Marc asks his girlfriend Agnès (Emmanuelle Devos) before they visit some friends for dinner. Her reaction is not immediate, and she simply replies "I don't know; I love you with it but I've never known you without it." So while Agnès leaves the apartment for a short time to do some shopping, Marc takes the risk and cuts off his beloved moustache, just like that, in order to see his lover's face and analyze her reaction when she returns home.

However, Marc will be severely disappointed: upon Agnès' arrival, she does not utter one single word. She seems not to notice the major physical change in Marc's face. Nor do their friends. Even Marc's colleagues at the office fail to perceive the absence of his moustache. Is he on the verge of madness? Or has he become the target of a massive conspiracy triggered by his own girlfriend? More weirdly, did he even ever have a moustache? Or was it part of some unexplainable imagination? Marc has no clue at all how to react to his baffling new situation…

When you enter the official movie website, a big question mark appears at the end of the flash intro. This question mark is totally appropriate, since it clearly illustrates what kind of movie 'La Moustache' really is: namely a confusing, puzzling drama with an open ending and a number of unexplainable twists, flashbacks and mysterious appearances by characters when you least expect it. "What is 'La Moustache' about?" is the first question of a recent online interview conducted with Emmanuel Carrère. The director himself has no answer to that crucial question.

Indeed, 'La Moustache' is one of these attention-grabbing cinematic mysteries that first baffle the spectators, and then leave them behind with a bunch of questions unanswered. There are though, in this ingeniously structured and passionately filmed movie, some easily detectable themes. For once, 'La Moustache' is an analysis of a dysfunctional couple tumbling into a conflict driven by mistrust. Marc soon accuses Agnès of plotting against him, but Agnès is deeply persuaded that Marc has in fact never had a moustache. This marks the beginning of a series of violent arguments and disputes.

Moreover, Carrère's film closely focuses on a man struggling with the inevitable loss of his personal identity. Marc is unable to distinguish between reality and imagination, and so he struggles hard to uncover the origins of the problem. He is a man all on his own against the rest of the world. In his apartment, he finds some old pictures from a vacation in Bali, all of them showing him with a moustache. But is he really the only one to see it? Is the moustache on this photo real or not? He does not know, and we do not either.

Especially the first part of 'La Moustache' is intensely compelling and dark, examining the relationship between Marc and Agnès, and closely focusing on Marc's progressive battle to keep his emotional and moral nature under control. When his consciousness slowly begins to shut down, the tension mounts as the suspense grows and the atmosphere becomes more and more threatening. Carrère has a brilliant vision, and he captures Marc's way into madness in a diverse and appealing way.

Marc is the perfect role for Vincent Lindon, whose look is continually as puzzling as the story itself. He masters his role with ideal perfection, always acting authentically. The same can be said about the brilliant Emmanuelle Devos ('La Femme de Gilles'), who delivers an enigmatic performance as Agnès. Her complex character is a true object of curiosity, and no one can trust her. Is she the evil woman ruining the mind of her partner? Or is she the reasonable person? Question marks à gogo.

The last twenty minutes of 'La Moustache', which follow Marc to Bangkok, where he repetitively embarks and disembarks ferries all day long, are quite debatable, yet very challenging. The film reaches yet another climax, takes another abrupt twist, and once again challenges us spectators by sparking our curiosity. Please do not expect a satisfying explanation towards the very ending, because 'La Moustache' ain't going to give you one. Many pieces of the puzzle remain untraceable; but that's exactly what makes this masterpiece so intriguing and unique. (Grade: B+)
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Pleasant surprise
PAolo-103 September 2005
"The Moustache" is a comedy that, starting from the most trivial of pretexts, quickly turns into a true Kafkian nightmare. A man shaves his mustache. No one seems to notice, and in a surrealistic parody of male mid-life crisis this causes conflict, pain and uncertainty. But more and more threads come undone in the fabric of his reality.

Excellent self-adaptation of a short novel by Emmanuel Carrère, La Moustache delivers the spectator with much more than it promises, in these days a rare occurrence indeed. Vincent Lindon as the troubled protagonist is good and measured, and the movie has an excellent pace and nothing is overdone. Even the theme, a Philip Glass "Concerto pour violon et orchestre" could not be more effective. Will we ever see this movie in the USA? Maybe in a parallel reality.
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samskara79 June 2013
This is a strange story of mental illness (at least that's how I chose to interpret it). A man, Marc, gradually loses his grip on reality after shaving his mustache that was always there as part of his look as a man (or at least he thinks it was). The movie is seen through Marc's perspective which makes it difficult to discern reality from his bouts of schizophrenic hallucinations.

At some points the movie reminds me of Lost Highway in the manner with which it represented the split of the protagonist (or rather a metamorphosis) into two different characters. In La Moustache the split happens at the level of the "life" of the protagonist, his world is constantly subjected to transformations, while he more or less stays the same. However in LH we can discern the "true" part of the protagonist from his "imagined" part. That distinction is impossible in La Moustache ; we don't know where his madness starts and where it ends. He is a total mess, and it is upon this ambiguity that everything we see is built.

All in all, this movie was a really nice surprise that I highly enjoyed and that I recommend for fans of Lynch, Cronenberg and psychological thrillers/dramas.
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Chinese Puzzle
valis194922 February 2009
LA MOUSTACHE forces the viewer to grapple with a conundrum; "What is real, and what is not?". Carrere (who wrote the novel and directed the film) is a writer and fan of the late, great science fiction author, Philip K. Dick. In fact, Carrere's, I AM ALIVE AND YOU ARE DEAD:A JOURNEY INTO THE LIFE OF PHILIP K. DICK is an excellent biography of this gifted author. Nearly all of Dick's work concerned the shifting nature of Identity and the ontological basis for Reality. This movie examines the possibility of "Change"-shaving a moustache, and the impact on a life. In a sense, the film is kind of a Black Comedy, in that such a minor adjustment would not seem to lead to such dislocation. But, that is not the case in La Moustache. The movie begs all kinds of bizarre interpretations, so don't expect an easy ride from this French 'Chinese Puzzle' of a film,
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is there a link to his father?
sanzo-23 September 2007
At first, through the first third of the movie, I was sure that the film was an allegory about the architect's family and friends never actually noticing him (or his moustache). Things got confusing to me when he didn't press his wife about the Bali photographs (which appear to confirm he's NOT crazy), his wife is apparently trying to have him committed and he suddenly escapes to Hong Kong.

Though I did enjoy the film immensely in all its detail, I kept feeling there must have been a link between his moustache (and the identity crisis shaving it off led to) and his father's death. His father's death seemed to have discombobulated him.

Did his own confusion about his moustache symbolize his inability to digest the death of his father? Was he dreaming all of the confusion about his moustache?

In the end, I'm left with questions only. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this film and would like to know what other people think of it and what they make of it.
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A dream of a life may in fact be just a life in a dream.
RJBurke19421 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This review reveals almost everything about this story. So, if you want to enjoy the mystery first, then stop right now...and come back after you've seen the film.

The title is classic misdirection by writers. This story has nothing specific to do with a moustache. It is merely a symbol used to highlight the idea of identity and, more particularly, the extent to which a husband and wife are aware of each other.

The story is as follows: the fade in opens with a successful Parisian businessman, Marc Thiriez (Vincent Lindon), shaving off his moustache while having a bath. When confronting his wife, Agnes (Emmanuelle Devos) she fails to evince any surprise. Somewhat puzzled – because, only a few moments prior, Agnes had said how much she liked his moustache – Marc says nothing but continues on to a dinner engagement to Serge and Nadia Schaeffer (Mathieu Amalric and Marcha Polikarpova) where they all say nothing about his new look. Later, suspecting a trick, Marc confronts Agnes at their apartment where she categorically denies Marc has ever had a moustache...


Dumbfounded, Marc has a troubled sleep but goes to work the next morning, convinced that Agnes and their so-called friends are out to get him, for some unknown reason. At the office and the nearby coffee shop – where Marc has dined all too often – the same situation persists: nobody makes any comment about the absence of his moustache.

Hence, for Marc, the puzzle worsens...

He begins to panic: he searches for the remains of his moustache in the garbage; he seeks confirmation from a stranger that a photo, from a 2003 holiday in Bali, shows him with a moustache. But, later that day, he asks Agnes to cancel a lunch with his parents - and she replies that his father died a year earlier! Questioning her further, Marc realizes with mounting horror, that she cannot even recall their friends, Serge and Nadia!

What's going on here? Am I crazy, thinks Marc? Confused and shattered, he falls into a stupor and sleeps again, allowing Agnes to slip a knock-out Mickey Finn to him. Hours later he wakes to hear Agnes and Bruno (Hippolyte Giradou), his office associate, discussing plans to have him committed to an asylum. Frantic, Marc runs off to find his parents, but is unable to contact them, and calls Agnes to meet him, while watching from a taxi. After she leaves with Bruno, Marc quickly gets his passport, a coat and money, and goes to the airport where he boards a flight for...Hong Kong!

When he gets there, he wanders around a bit, alternately ferrying from Hong Kong to Kowloon and back a few times – a great metaphor for his indecision - then pays his way onto a coastal trader to finally wind up at an un-named coastal village. He wanders off from the boat and ends up at a run-down hotel where he pays for a room and falls asleep, exhausted...

Okay – stop right here: all of the above is Marc's dream – or nightmare, I guess.

The next (real) scene, we see Marc, unshaven with many weeks growth, wolfing down noodles at a local restaurant. After the meal, he wanders back to the hotel where he finds (and, as the viewer, we also find) Agnes packing their bags to return to Paris. She tells him to shave off his growing beard and suggests he also remove his moustache. When he does so, she remarks how much it suits him. They go to bed; they make love; she sleeps. Marc lies there for a long while, eyes closed. Then, he opens his eyes wide, blankly and silently screaming: am I awake or is this a dream? Fade to black...

So, here's the real story: Marc and Agnes are on holiday, near Hong Kong, where he hopes to resurrect what he thinks is their dead or dying marital and sexual relationship. One night, he has a nightmare about his innermost fears and desires. The next morning, fortuitously, Agnes suggests he change his image, more or less in keeping with his prior dream, and so he does. Happily for Marc, she actually notices the difference and things appear to be better. Unhappily, however, aspects of his dream remain, most particularly, a post card that he wrote out in his dream. Or did he?

Hence, when Marc stares into the darkness, is it truly reality? This is where the writer/director weaves two fundamental issues together: first, there is the male angst about whether his wife still loves him - which generates the bizarre dream set in Paris (while they are both on holiday in China) and second, there is the deeper philosophical issue about reality itself. As the final scene very slowly fades to black, the camera fixes on Marc's troubled eyes, the unspoken question screaming at us: am I in a dream now, or have I woken up? So, does Agnes truly love me, or no?

That's for you and all of us to decide...

When you see the movie, watch out for the clues that tell you it's all a dream: as the credits roll, there are city lights on dark water – water heavily connoting sex – with a sampan just in view; a long column of lights from skyscraper – a phallic symbol, much repeated later in the story; the photos from Bali, every lover's dream destination. As they drive to the dinner date with Serge and Nadia, Agnes makes a shocking admission to Marc about the way she dresses; at work, Marc is so confused, he says to himself: "I must be dreaming!" And, just when Marc leaves to go to work, Agnes calls him back and says: "Marc – this is like a bad trip!"

Some trip! See how you like it...
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Multiple timelines?
ben-6546 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
La Moustache opens with a man thinking about possibly shaving his moustache. There are theories in both spiritual and scientific circles that postulate that whenever we make a decision like this we in fact make them both. We "filter" out the decision that we "didn't" make and continue to live our normal seemingly-linear life, but another reality exists, just as real as "this" one, in which we made the "other" decision.

To understand this movie in a multiple-timeline context, we have to back up to the beginning of the main character's adult life (before the movie starts), in which he made the decision to grow a moustache at all. In timeline A he never grew one, in timeline B he always grew one since he could. The movie thus begins in timeline B. To keep things simple, let's pretend there are only these two timelines to worry about.

The movie opens with the main character making the decision to shave his moustache. In one reality, timeline B, he keeps it. We don't see this reality for the next week or so of his life. Instead, the decision to shave his moustache is so jarring that he "jumps" to timeline A, or more accurately he jumps to timeline A but elements of timeline B are still known to him, such as the photographs of his vacation, the license in his wallet, and his overall consciousness and memories are still from timeline B. Most of the movie, however, takes place in timeline A.

The fact that he is caught between timelines is psychologically disturbing to him and his wife, neither of whom understand the predicament he is in, and assume that he is either going crazy or, as he assumes at times, someone may be playing an elaborate prank on him.

Overhearing that his wife might send him to a mental institution, he escapes to Hong Kong. He immediately misses his wife and writes a postcard to her that he will be back by the time she gets it, but doesn't mail it. He takes a ferry from the city side to the airport side of a river, but before boarding the plane, changes his mind again and goes back on the ferry. Then he _keeps on_ going back and forth across the ferry until the end of the day when it closes. He never does go back to the airport.

The ferry riding is a very interesting element in the film. A decision - the decision to shave his moustache, was done hastily in the beginning of the film. Again, another decision, to not get on the plane and get back on the ferry, was made quickly. Was he perhaps trying to "trick time" into getting him back into the right timeline? Or is the ferry simply a way to experience the same space over and over again - a "sameness" - that is in fact "different" every time (every time he rides the ferry there are new people, and he sits in a different place, etc. Even the chairs on the ferry seem to have adjustable backs on them that can swing one way or another, so that the rider can make a decision to face backwards or forwards. Only the ticket seller is the same, and she never seems to recognize him or wonder why he is riding back and forth) Normally we experience sameness (e.g. going to work) that can seem very much the same every time (same co-workers, similar work, etc.) and the ferry is a break from that. Or does the ferry "between" the city and the airport represent his state of "betweenness" of the timelines? He doesn't want to go back to France, where they might put him in an institution, but he doesn't want to go to his Hong Kong hotel, where he will be missing his wife. He decides to stay "between" for this day, and he seems content in this between-ness. He doesn't seem that nervous or worried on the ferry. He is cordial, even smiling to teenage schoolgirls that are giggling at him. He is learning to be OK with betweenness.

The movie then jumps to what seems like days later (or perhaps even longer) and the main character now has a moustache grown out. The moustache being present is the catalyst to get him back to timeline B, and when he gets back to his hotel his wife his there, and it is as if she has been there the whole time, with him, on vacation.

That night he asks if she would like to see him without a moustache, and she says that she might like to have him try it. This is a different answer than at the opening of the movie, where she says that she has never seen him without it, and she doesn't seem to be that into the idea of him shaving it. He shaves the moustache, but stays in timeline B. Perhaps this time the move is not so jarring because he has done it before. Or perhaps it is because his wife seems more approving this time while they are happy on vacation. Or perhaps it is because he has learned to live in and accept "betweenness" after his experience on the ferry. All is well. Or is it? As the lights dim in the room, the viewer is wondering if he will wake up in timeline A all alone.
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Perception of things
johnpierrepatrick3 July 2020
A man decided to shave his moustache... His whole world is about to change.

That could be the pitch of this movie, however this is not an adventure movie, with an ordinary hero. Emmanuel is a French writer and director and his movie is attached to the characters and the story. "La moustache" is also a movie divided in 2 parts.

First is in Paris, and is very intense, very dramatic in its very own sense. It finally asks again some basic philosophic questions: what is real? how do I know that what I perceive is the reality? But the movie involves us in a story where we feel Vincent Lindon's character loose feet, fighting to keep track with reality. That part is really masterpiece.

Second part did not meet my expectations. Yes, it is a tribute to Asian cinema and I can agree that in a sense it takes further the story. However the intensity of the first half is lost in a clap, the driving and captivating force disappears, replaced by a full mystery that is quite coming in full circle.

Acting is very good but I may be biased as Lindon and Devos are part of my favorites actors anyway. Lindon especially. He is given a wonderful part and acts his best.

All in all, part 1 would be 9 and part 2 more about 5. Average would be 7 but I do think the movie deserves more for the intensity of its first part and to be put apart from 'only good' movies. On top of that, it does make me want to read the book to understand better the second part and what I may have missed.
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Mention of Engraved Object
gsandra-2687611 July 2019
During the segment in China, his wife mentions something about him selling an engraved object and asks him if they didn't realize it was a fake. It was a short conversation but it put the whole plot into some context of him being set up in the midst of a fraud -- the sale of a valuable, but fake, antiquity. I can't find this bit of the film mentioned in any of the reviews. Perhaps viewers were caught up in the maze-like plot of this film, but the trip to Hong Kong only made sense if the husband knew that it was central to his search for his identity, sanity, and the answer to the puzzle.
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A very pleasant surprise!
DimitrisPassas-TapTheLine3 September 2018
''La moustache'' is one of the most underrated non-genre European films ever. I was intrigued by reading the synopsis of the film which is this: a man shaves his mustache after a lot of years but nobody around him seems to acknowledge the fact, which slowly drives the main character Marc (an excellent performance by Vincent Lyndon) to the edge of sanity and self-doubt. What is really happening? Is it a conspiracy of his wife and friends in order to put him in an asylum or Marc is, in reality, a severely mentally unbalanced person? The movie offers no definite answer in the end and, even though many think that this is a flaw, in my opinion, this is the perfect ending to an ingenious story. Certainly, ''La moustache'' is not a film for everyone and it will mainly appeal to the admirers of Luis Buñuel cinema and the theatre of the absurd. If you are looking for a movie experience beyond Hollywoodian genre films, ''La moustache'' will prove to be a blasting experience.
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Could Have Been a Dream or not
Richie-67-4858525 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Well it starts out innocently enough and then we are thrown back and forth back and forth with each point verifying itself leaving the viewer saying yes, I agree only to have the same viewer say, no I don't agree. Then,you ask, which one is it? This style of story can be compelling and entertaining but risks losing the viewer at the end if they are not pleased...That potential exists here. It is definitely a discussion film, but has obvious points that once mentioned have no further value. It is that ending that causes one to say...what is going on here? There is a subtle clue or two, but I needed input from a sensitive commenter to find closure because the director will not help you here...I was engrossed all the way through, so no problem there...but that ending well its like a five course meal and you only got 4 courses. Your full, but you paid for five courses...enjoy this movie because this is only my opinion I am sharing. You will definitely have yours and so will others..
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Here's what it is!!!
briskchap24 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Just like the rest I was confused at the end, had many thoughts running through my mind... time travel!! wifes playing a prank, this guy has some serious mental issues..??? hoping the movie would not end without an explanation and to my surprise it did, well googled and found this is one of those movies.. read many reviews skimmed through the movie again and finally understood.. or i think... so here goes people, the first half is his dream!! all his thoughts played out very carefully... starts out with a simple dilemma on his moustache (identity>> does he understand himself well) lets leave the moustache out to understand better, the dilemma grows deeper with his doubts over his wife... is she being honest?? (theres even a scene in which she says she only says the truth, again his thoughts). The scene to the goddaughters birthday is his imagination considering his recent friends at the boat, what if they meet back in Paris. Brings in his office environment, confusion do people really know him there?, then the clown jacket where he imagines his wife picked it up for him, running off home to get the next flight hong kong to free himself from all the dilemma in his life >> well thats his vacation, thats how he imagined his vacation to have kicked off, freedom from his confused and stressed life.

Reality starts when he's sitting in the boat with the red shirt, bearded and eating noodles...

Post card incident is a trick a big trick, its shown him sitting in a hotel window writing to his wife, well if this takes place in his dreams then in reality while he is with his wife later after saying goodbye to their recent friends how could he have the card??? he then flicks it to the water.... thats confusing!!!

well I agree with most other reviews the key is the hongkongs night lights reflecting from the water, its shown at the beginning then in the middle while he is dreaming and at the end....thus confirming its all his dream...
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