La Moustache

Opens at Big Picture, Fri., Aug. 4. Not rated. 86 minutes.

A man named Marc (Vincent Lindon) wonders, "What if I shaved off my mustache?" Then, he does it, and with that one simple gesture tips his life into existential crisis. No one, it seems—not even Marc's own wife (Emmanuelle Devos)—remembers that he ever had a mustache, and before long, other seismic changes are taking hold in Marc's post-hirsute universe, unnoticed by all but him. Is Marc going crazy? Or has he just lost his sense of self, along with that hair on his upper lip? Those are cards that French director Emmanuel Carrère's debut narrative feature holds close to its vest for most of its running time—a tactic that may irritate as many viewers as it enchants. But the pleasure of La Moustache is that it doesn't feel the need to explain itself at every turn. Part absurdist comedy about the institution of marriage, part paranoid Kafkaesque fantasy, it's a minor-key reverie on the way our own lives can sometimes feel alien to us. Not least, it's also a fine showcase for two of the most appealing actors in French movies today: the dapper Lindon, who manifests his character's mushrooming confusion with dogged precision; and Devos, ever radiant in her Rubenesque beauty. SCOTT FOUNDAS

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