Mustaches and film have a long and storied, yet troubled, history.
In the early days, they were faked (Chaplin, Groucho) for comedy, styled for dashing-ness (Fairbanks, Gable) or twiddled for villainy (Basil Rathbone, bad guys with rope and train tracks).
In the ’70s, the screen mustache flowered gloriously, with ’stache icon Burt Reynolds bringing it into the mainstream before porn actors everywhere dragged it back to the fringes.
Wilford Brimley’s walrus ’stache endures through the ages. But what of the mustache in today’s film scene?
“You don’t see the A-list of today rocking the ’stache,” laments Nick Callanan, president of Portland-based No Umbrella Media and a mustache enthusiast. “Maybe they think they’re above it.”
One of the founders of the Stache Pag, an annual celebration of selectively hirsute Portlanders, Callanan and company are seeking to overcome this perceived anti-mustache trend by sponsoring, as an outgrowth (you get it …) of this year’s Pag, the first annual International Moustache Film Festival.
After the Stache Pag proper on Friday night at Port City Music Hall, the IMFF’s inaugural roster of short films will be screened at Deering Grange Hall (deeringgrange.org) at 3 and 7 p.m. – an evening which, Callanan promises, will help restore the screen ’stache to all its lustrous cinematic glory.
“I’m pretty shocked, actually,” said Callanan. “We didn’t expect the quality to be this good.”
Calling itself “international” partly in jest, Callanan was surprised at just how worldwide the festival quickly became, with some 30 shorts selected from around the globe.
“We have a documentary about the significance of the mustache in Sri Lanka made by two Canadian women, another documentary from India, some ‘fake mustache’ comedies, some silent films, what I’d term an art-house film from Russia, music videos, fake trailers for a mustache action film, movies from Australia, Asia,” he said. “Sometimes, you just shake your head at something you create …”
Although some may regard it as a goof, this year’s IMFF will benefit three worthy sponsors (MENSK, mystachefightscancer.com and Northeast Historic Film), and, as Callanan explains, promises a great time – and maybe something more.
“It’s all about fun, but it’s also something you can get behind, literally,” he said. “It’s apolitical and it brings down walls – if you have a mustache, it might mean you can’t take yourself too seriously, or maybe you have an appreciation for the finer things in life. Here’s an event that says, ‘Look, there are people in France and Russia who believe the same things.’”
To attend the 21-and-older film festival, you must be a member of the Stache Film Club (join for $5 at stachepag.com/stachefilmfest or at the door).
So, will this clearly growing (you get it …) movement inspire the A-list to start sprouting again?
“When Danny Trejo finally got a lead in ‘Machete,’ it was a happy day for me,” says Callanan. “He just owns that ’stache. But as to the future, we’ve always been underground; now everyone knows about it.
“Mustaches are creeping back into pop culture, and honestly, I don’t know how mustache man feels about that. We’re on the border of mustaches becoming mainstream – maybe it shows that our work is paying off.”
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.