[With gratitude toward my mother and her gift of a portable DVD player, an invaluable camping accessory.]
There isn’t much story to Sweeney Todd. A man is wronged and seeks revenge. Add in a murderous meat-pie subplot and that’s about it. Sweeney Todd is all surface glam. The songs and shaves provide some fun, but only barely enough to carry me through one viewing. The film’s greatest flaw, in my estimation, is that there is no emotional hook on which to hang my hat. There’s a broken love back-story that provides justification for all of the present mayhem, but the ridiculousness of the song and dance numbers and general over-the-top atmosphere distanced me from any real engagement with the story or the characters. That’s a shame because I think that the whole point of music in a musical is supposed to draw one further into the story, not away from it. Then again, I’ve always been biased against musicals. I almost always hate them so I won’t now pretend to understand them. I’ll leave Sweeney Todd to its fans and defenders.
La Moustache is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. It’s a classic example of what divides an artsy-fartsy film snob like myself from the rank and file of the mainstream moviegoer.
A man, Marc, has had the same moustache for 15 years. One morning, after his bath, Marc, on a whim, shaves his moustache. His wife doesn’t notice.
In the first 19 minutes, the film addresses issues of identity and insecurity with such skill and wisdom that I’d still consider the film a minor masterpiece if it ended abruptly after those 19 minutes.
What is amazing is that the film only gets better as it goes on. The seemingly silly premise of a man shaving his moustache develops into a taut psychological thriller.
The film’s third act is then comprised of a nearly wordless 20 minutes that is sure to frustrate some viewers, but I was held in rapt attention. The ending, too, is admittedly unsatisfactory, but I was somehow satisfied.
In the end, La Moustache manages to be both a conventional and deeply unconventional thriller. It is excellently structured, but remains fairly light on plot. Instead, it relentlessly builds a mood of alienation and isolation while exploring the transitory natures of identity and trust, all summed up neatly in the loss of a moustache.