May 27, 2006 [La Moustache, Pulse/Kairo]

About 15 years ago I shaved off my mustache--I'd had it for years--in fact, I was wearing it when I met Jean, so she'd never seen me without it, except in photographs.  But she had been off somewhere, and I was alone in the house, and thought that 1981--or whenever it was I shaved it off--was just far enough away from the glory days of the American mustache--OK, a mere half-decade--if that: many men continued to sport them, pure Burt Reynolds Envy, maybe Tom Selleck--or jeez, maybe even Ron Jeremy?  In any case, I suddenly decided that was that, and got rid of it. 

I can still recall rejoining Jean, seeing her across a parking lot, walking up to her--and as though she were one of Job's friends visiting him in the midst of his ashes and boils she saw my state from afar and cried out in dismay--and no How-are-you-honey-missed-yous for me; no, she went straight to, "Grow it back."  I did, and kept it longer than I should've, dutiful but dumb, and happy to say so.

Lucky me I did not make the attempt while living in the French movie La Moustache.  Marc also simply does it, no real hesitation, the little clipped hairs collecting in the little dish, scraped in the trash, we see it all--and no one notices--and more: Everyone insists he'd never had one. And even the photographs don't matter, the hairs collected from the dumpster and presented by a stinking, almost-raving man desperate to understand how something like that could not only be overlooked but erased--I mean, we've all made this change or that, and no one notices, sometimes not even when you point it out to them, not really--and we chalk it up to the strange shifting point-of-view of the self: After all, our haircuts and eyeglasses and so on are a presentation to others; good grooming is for everybody else--you can't see it, it's all on your face, on top of your head, dangling from your ears just out of sight.  You can look down at your clothes and your shoes, but your face and your head and all its this n that are little somethings for everybody else.  And how strange when they don't notice the change--but how natural, since in the end it's all on you, literally, and their job--to see it--is taken so lightly you may as well not bother.

But when they do notice--sort of: by asserting that it never was, that your relatively thick and dark moustache was a figment of your imagination, and you alarm them with your continued insistent fear that you had it, that they're plotting against you with a lie so facile that all it takes is one quick look at the photo album to dash it to hell--but no one looks, and Marc begins to give up trying--again: When they let you know that what was, never was, then what more could be lost?  And Marc finds out what that is, how much can be taken away as his old life slips into memory, then maybe nothing at all.

I already saw this happen, late last year in the Japanese movie Pulse, another nod to David Lynch (and at the edges Harold Pinter--but without the "comedy"); and it is certainly living in the same world as La Moustache, although the apocalypse of self is global in Pulse, and infinitely more computer-Gothic. In the French film, the loss of self does not lead to a dark smear on the wall but a new self; and the challenge is to allow the old self to trail off like an unfinished sentence and accept a new life--with the same wife; and Marc is more than willing to let everyone else go as long as he can keep Agnes--which makes sense to me, me and my own mustache that grew back as quickly as it could because Jean told us to and neither of us wanted to disappoint her.

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