A new movie well worth a look

Those of you with great recall may remember that one of the first films I saw in the Rendezvous with French Cinema this year was Emmanuel Carrere's La Moustache. That disturbing, entertaining little pic is now playing around NYC and is worth a trip to the movies.

What I wrote way back in February was as follows:

"Emmanuel Carrere's adaptation of his own novel, La Moustache, is a quirky, tricky joy. His second film as a director . . . La Moustache is an elegant puzzle without a conventional answer. Marc (Vincent Lindon) shaves off his mustache for the first time in 15 years, but his wife (Emmanuelle Devos, glorious as usual) sees no difference. In fact, she denies he ever had a mustache.

"As do his friends and colleagues.

"What starts out as an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode quickly becomes a fascinating examination of the truth-valu" of photographic "reality," a subject that is familiar to anyone who has studied film theory for more than 15 minutes. Carrere plays straight with his material [and, I would add now, his audience], which makes the film's denouement all the more satisfying for its obstinate refusal to explain anything. Marc, like any filmgoer, is simply taken wherever the narrative goes. As Chico Marx says, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" The result is sort of like Psycho with the last ten minutes lopped off."

I was sitting down to read Sam Rohdie's BFI monograph on Michelangelo Antonioni a little while ago -- BAMCinemathek is doing an Antonioni retrospective and there are two screenings tomorrow, so I thought it might not hurt -- and I realized that the real cross-reference for La Moustache isn't exactly Hitchcock, although Carrere plays some Hitchcockian games with point-of-view, but Antonioni, at least as far as his approach to conventional narrative is concerned. Think The Passenger with its frustratingly uncertain but utterly hypnotic ending. Or ask yourself what happened to Lea Massari in L'Avventura. (And Emmanuelle Devos has something of the intellectual sexiness of Monica Vitti, but let's not go there, huh?)

Which is, I suppose, a perfect lead-in to some ruminations on Antonioni, which will be here later this week after I see Blow-Up and Cronaca di un Amore tomorrow.

In the meantime, go see La Moustache and tell me what you think happened.