A few moments emerge in the documentary Men With Beards when the viewer might have cause to wonder if a better subject could have been explored in a feature-length running time.
The film concludes, for example, with a facial hair event in Alaska, the World Beard & Moustache Championship, where prizes are handed out to various beard-growers in different categories such as "Musketeer," "Amish," and "Garibaldi." The contest itself, one thinks, would be a good jumping off point for a film examining the decline of hirsute masculinity in popular culture. (Consider hairy-chested Sean Connery as compared to bare-chested Brad Pitt. Discuss.)
One of the interview subjects is Winnipeg performance artist Ian Mozdzen, who cops to controversial works involving defecating condiments mustard and mayo onstage. The filmmakers touch on his performances briefly... and then, in effect, ask Mozden: "Yes, but tell us about your beard."
Nobody could accuse Winnipeg filmmakers Dylan Fries and Michael Sanders of misrepresentation. Men With Beards is very much about men with beards.
You've heard of talking-heads documentaries? This is a talking-furry-heads documentary.
As such, the film does cover a few of the significant challenges of having a beard: eating and drinking, knowing when and where to trim, washing and conditioning.
Can a beard-o get girls? Well, it doesn't seem to hurt. A couple of women appear in the film to assert their attraction to full beards in all their masculine glory.
A biker with ZZ Top-style chinlocks says his beard is a kind of insurance policy against being hassled.
One older interview subject recalls feeling his job was at stake when his full beard so unsettled his employers he was obliged to shave it off.
This particular story might have been illustrated with clips from the satiric 1970 Dick Van Dyke movie Some Kind of Nut, about a bank teller who gets fired for growing a beard. The filmmakers opt for more obvious clips from the 1943 Bela Lugosi movie The Ape Man for bluntly comic effect.
In any case, the gentleman who sacrificed his beard at the altar of conformity is seen surrounded by his grown sons, all of whom have substantial beards. It would appear to be a victory against the bald-faced groupthink of years gone by, I suppose.
On the other hand, as one who has sported one kind of beard or another for most of my adult life, I don't see a pertinent reason for this film's existence right now.
While occasionally entertaining, Men With Beards is a too-broad, too-vague approach to what is now fairly commonplace facial accoutrement.
What's the sequel? Men With Pants?