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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hairsplitters Debate Role of the Mustache

I knew it! Florida is not quite the cultural wasteland that everyone gives it credit for being. Just mere months after the Academy Awards were handed out, "Burned by the Sun" has made it into that coveted $1.50 weekday matinee slot in hard-luck cineplexes all over the state. Let's see ... at 2.5 people per showing, five showings a week ... soon an entire handful of Floridians will be discussing the significance of the Stalinist era and wondering what that glowing-orb stuff was all about. What a triumph for the Sunshine State!

One reliable source, however, informs me that what's really on everyone's mind in Florida is Nikita Mikhalkov's mustache. Forget all that garbage about lost innocence and the cyclical nature of betrayal -- what is with that mustache? One local movie reviewer, apparently skimmed over most of the film's basic distractions -- plot, theme, dialogue -- and focused on the crux of the matter. How is one to sympathize with General Kotov, he wrote, when "Mikhalkov, with his bushy, unwieldy mustache, can hardly be considered an appealing character?" Clean-cut Mitya was obviously more his type.

Bushy? Unwieldy? Unappealing? The reliable source -- who at this point I will admit is my mother -- thought that Mikhalkov was the sexiest thing alive, leaps and bounds ahead of that pasty, perfidious Menshikov. Most females I know agreed, and although women can be sensitive to many characteristics beyond good looks, the mustache had something to do with it. It's a new take on last year's debate about whether Harvey Keitel's nose tattoos made him any less sexy in "The Piano" -- No. If anything, these physical aberrations made them more irresistible.

Facial hair is less extreme than a tattooed nose, but Americans have a hard time dealing with it nonetheless. Oh, we can accept the occasional beard: various goatees for the younger men, fuller versions for professorial types, and all-out long varieties for sect members, Santa Claus and Jesus Christ (although my grandmother always confessed a secret wish that Jesus would shave). But stand-alone mustaches are trickier, thrusting you immediately to society's fringe, along with cops, power linemen and the Village People. They look a little shifty, and they are definitely not sexy.

Admittedly, we're taking on a difference of generation, as well as one of nationality here. Young Russians aren't all that big on facial hair themselves, and Kotov's mustache in 1936 was probably much less unusual than Mikhalkov's mustache in 1995. But Russians still have a heartfelt appreciation and flair for well-groomed whiskers and silky beards. Even Peter the Great, the great god of Western beauty trends, couldn't convince the people to bear razors. It's simply in their blood. And it doesn't look that bad, either.