Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

What’s a man without a mustache? In need of some patchwork. A film review

What’s a Man Without a Mustache, Croatia, 2006.

A comedy written and directed by Hrvoje Hribar. It was one of the highest grossing films in Croatia last year, but forget about the mustache, does it have legs, is a more important question. Unfortunately, international audiences may not be as willing to overlook the bald patches. A mustache is what separates two brothers in this film (both played by Leon Lucev), and it serves to symbolize the various definitions of macho. It is a film about men, how they deal with their role in society.

It is also about women, who basically know what they want: they want a man who will love them. But the men have other concerns: overcoming their own weaknesses, translating their strengths into manliness. It is this war of the sexes that gives the movie its storyline, and its weak focus. The story takes place in a small Croatian town, where some people have returned from emigration, other people have never known anyplace else, and still others have come here from points unknown. They all find themselves stuck together in this place, and must make do with each other’s screwball idiosyncrasies It is a sumptuously filmed comedy of errors, with some genuinely funny characterizations and predicaments, and though it lets so many comic opportunities slip by, it is still delightful to watch. There are lots of interesting characters that wear their emotions on their sleeve here, and we are tantalized with the idea that we will get to see them interact in the finest Mediterranean comic fashion. There are some good moments, mostly involving romantic liaisons that go awry. However, the filmmakers seem to pull back from that genre, and loose ends abound, leaving only partially realized scenes where comic pathos has been disappointingly averted at the last moment. Most jarringly, the story jumps unexpectedly to one year later and we are left wondering what has happened during that time, since we get the feeling that we have missed some of the best parts. The macho general’s marriage? The priest in Africa? The returning girl’s new life? All left out of the script or worse, on the cutting room floor. Perhaps it would have been better to take one point of view, the male or the female, and stick with it throughout. This is an entertaining little film that could have been a classic comedy, with some more work on the screenplay. What’s a man without a mustache? I don’t know, but I have the feeling it’s a joke without a punchline.

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May 9, 2009 - Posted by | cinema | , , ,

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