Is it a joke? Is it a plot by a wife to get her husband committed? Or is he really going insane? The trivial act of Marc Thiriez (Vincent Lindon) shaving off his facial hair is all the action novelist/director Emmanuel Carrère needs to fuel his existentialist narrative because, when the man mingles with his friends, family, and acquaintances, nobody notices the absence of the mustache or that he had ever grown one. With this simple, absurd twist, Carrère is able to send this man's sense of his reality - and ours - spiraling out of control, revealing the fragility of a person's connection to their world. From the opening image of a dark, mysterious sea, which cuts to the ripples of water in a bathtub, you can feel the powerful subconscious forces playing out in the domestic deeds that make up the characters' day-to-day lives. It's on this febrile, non-logical level, when the solid ground of meaning has been abandoned, that the film is most effective.The self-examinations are aided by a transfer that has good detail and contrast, clearly revealing every strand of the lip decoration in question, along with the stubble around it and the lines surrounding haunted eyes. Skintones of the much stared-at face are natural, and the images generally have a nice range of warm colors and rich blacks, though the whites can be a little dull. Image quality is generally very good for something shot on 16mm film, though overgraininess can occasionally intrude. Philip Glass's relentless and hypnotic score is clean and full, and the instruments well separated in the stereo mix. Dialogue is crisp and clear, too. Extras consist of a 20-minute on-set featurette showing the director instructing his lead actress, Emmanuelle Devos, who's having problems with the concept of a film about a growth, and a 20-minute conversation between Carrère and editor Camille Cotte about the ghosts of the deleted scenes that are still dwelling within the film. [NR] English, Dolby Digital stereo; letterboxed (1.85:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.
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