The seemingly frivolous premise of La Moustache is that a man shaves off his moustache and then seeks to solve the mystery of why everyone in his life insists he never had one.
But it actually gets pretty interesting, and it’s never played for laughs. It quickly develops into a mystery, where the protagonist (along with the audience) tries to figure out if he’s crazy, if his wife and others are playing a practical joke on him, or if they are trying to fool him in a much deeper way out of more nefarious motives.
At first I naturally thought he was sane and there was something going on with the others, because you get to actually see the things that confirm his view of reality. For example, his initial shaving off of his moustache is shown.
But then I realized it’s also possible the movie is showing everything from his perspective, rather than providing an objective, third party perspective of what’s really happening. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that—if memory serves me—he is present for every single scene of the film. So maybe we really are just seeing what’s going on in his mind.
Not saying that’s the case, just that it’s a possibility, and thus we’re as uncertain of his sanity as he is.
Indeed he himself becomes more and more alarmed as the evidence mounts against the hypothesis that it’s the other people who are—knowingly or not—wrong in what they’re claiming. Because for a while it’s just the moustache, and it’s just his wife and a small circle of people they know with whom there’s at least some chance she could be in cahoots. But then he discovers that he and others have contrary views of other facts as mundane and obvious as his moustache, and that the circle of people who don’t see what he sees is wider than his wife could have plausibly persuaded to fool him.
It has the set-up of a pretty good Twilight Zone episode. Because for one thing, with his sanity in doubt, any evidence, any argument he can put together to show he’s sane, is unavoidably suspect because of the potential taint from his possibly delusional mind.
For example, he has photographs in his possession of himself with a moustache, and to make sure he’s not hallucinating, he stops a stranger and shows her a photo, and she confirms that he has a moustache in it. But the problem is, how does he (or how do we) know he’s not just imagining she’s saying that when in fact she’s saying the opposite, or even that she exists outside his mind?
Through the early and middle stages of the movie, this mystery and his desperate attempts to solve it are not hard to follow. But then his behavior gets more and more difficult to make sense of as he hops on a plane and ends up in Hong Kong. Are the things he’s doing part of some plan to somehow establish in his own mind if he’s sane? To provide evidence that he can confront his wife and others with? Is there someone in Hong Kong he’s trying to find who can verify certain things for him? Is this some kind of extended flashback scene that will show how he lost his mind originally?
I don’t know. It didn’t make sense to me anymore what he was up to.
My feeling that whole last half hour or so of the movie was that this movie is going to stand or fall on its ending. It’s definitely an intriguing enough movie to hook me, after which it crosses over into something more confusing. So if it ends in a way that shows which hypothesis is correct as far as why everyone is denying his moustache and all that stuff, and it provides an explanation as to what was going on in the more obscure Hong Kong section of the movie, then the movie is worthwhile. Not anything really deep and important, but an entertaining mystery about mental illness.
Whereas if it gets all artsy and ends without resolving things, then I’ll be pissed.
Well, unless I completely missed something, I have reason to be pissed. It ends abruptly in as confusing a spot as any. I suppose it’s just saying that no ending could really settle things, because of the aforementioned problem that given that his sanity is an open question, and given the ambiguity of whether we’re watching what’s really happening or just his perceptions, he and we can have no confidence in any resolution anyway.
Still, it plays the audience for suckers, and I didn’t like it. I want to know if he’s crazy, and I want to know what the heck that stuff in Hong Kong was.
So La Moustache is a promising film that I found ultimately disappointing.