There may be no fantasy more commonly ingrained in us than that of physical reconstruction - of making over and starting over and, essentially, getting over the gulf between who we are and who we think we deserve to be. The most recent cultural manifestation of this common thirst for self-renovation is the string of "reality" makeover shows – Extreme Makeover, The Swan; to a slightly different degree, the "life makeover" shows like Made, Pimp my Ride, and EM: Home Edition; and on some level even American Idol – all of which are structured around the climactic reveal of the new self. And whilst the "stunning reveal" may be the logical, necessary conclusion of the rebirth fantasy, there's no after without the before – the New You only stuns because memory of the Old You still lingers. The makeover only makes its impression in relief.

When Marc (Vincent Lindon) shaves off his image-defining facial hair in Emmanuel Carrère's La Moustache, he waits until his wife has gone to the store. His eyes twinkle with the prospect of surprising her, and when he hears her on the stairs, he playfully hides his face, first behind a towel, then behind her own back. But Agnes doesn't notice that Marc has changed, and when the couple go out to dinner, three more friends fail to recognize Marc's transformation. Marc silently seethes through the meal, quietly livid over the lack of recognition. When he finally presses Agnes on it that night on the way home, she thinks he's joking. "You've never had a moustache!" she insists.

categories Cinematical