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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

La Moustache

(No, this won't be a post about Carod-Rovira's well-groomed mustache, so you can hold back on the angry emails, ERC fanatics.)

Yesterday I had two pleasant discoveries. The first was the Cinema Casablanca-Gràcia at Carrer de Girona 173-175. It's another V.O. cinema for anybody who's interested, and the programming is "alternative". For some that means pedantic art house fare, for others it's a welcome break from the flurry of cookie cutter mainstream movies. The last mainstream movie I saw was "The Departed" by Scorcese, which was abominal. Scorcese did the unthinkable and parodied himself. An atrocious movie by his standards, though somewhat entertaining and with a surprisingly good performance by DiCaprio. And everybody's talking about Borat, the big mainstream hit in the U.S., but I'll pass on that. I saw some clips on youtube and thought it was only slightly funny. The protag, Sasha Cohen, strikes me as a blowhard, and his gags get old after the first 30 seconds. The anti-jewish satire rubs me the wrong way, as does his blanket portrayal of Muslims as ignorant jew-haters. I like wicked jokes, I like my Lenny Bruce, my Richard Pryor, but this dude isn't really that funny. It's elitist humor and I hope this guy goes the way of the dodo.

So now that you know where I stand, I'm sure most of you would never take a movie recommendation by me seriously. But if you do, go check out La Moustache, a movie by novelist and filmmaker Emmanuel Carrère (this was my second pleasant discovery yesterday). This is dark comedy - equal parts Polanski, equal parts Kafka, maybe a little Houellebecq thrown in for good measure. La Moustache is about, well, a mustache, or the the lack of a mustache, depending on which character you side with in the movie.

The protag, Marc Thirez, a succesful architect with a doting, football-loving wife, seems to have the ideal life. One day he decides to shave off his mustache, and, much to his bewilderment, no one notices. His wife, his friends, his coworkers, don't say a thing. At first he thinks it's a prank, initiated by his wife. Soon he realizes it's not, and this sets off a major identity crisis. We're sympathetic to Marc, because we know he's telling the truth, but the rest of the cast are just as sincere in their denial, and soon we're pitting one man's opinion against the the rest of his social milieu.

Add to this a hypnotic soundtrack by Philip Glass, and it's hard not to get lost in Carrére's excellently crafted tale of ordinary madness. Perception of peers, personal integrity, are just a couple of the abstract concepts tackled in this movie. It doesn't resolve as nicely as some people might want it to (at least there's no baguette spilled on the floor with a rat in the background to symbolize a rat, as in end of Scorsese's craptastic dud), but if you want thought-provoking and quality filmmaking without frills, this is something to check out.