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Featured: Eyes Without A Face – My Classic Horror Review

Featured: Eyes Without A Face – My Classic Horror Review

I’m not a horror buff. Only a few films make my Top 100 favorite list that qualifies as horror – I think with just one hand I can count them – because it is a genre that isn’t my taste. I still watch horror films and find good qualities in them, but most films I find overdo it with a lot of gore, a bunch of nonsensical screaming, wooden dialogue, and stereotypical moments of random sex/nudity and the pretty girl getting the bloody end through various ways. There is Psycho and then there is other 1960 horror films which features the same shock value as a horror film of today with warning tales of nip-tuck science and how restoring beauty is a fatal flaw.

The Mad Doctor’s Agenda

Dr. Génessier is a noted surgeon who practices skin grafts in his secluded chateau. Tragically, his daughter, Christiane, has been found dead after surviving a car crash caused by her father to which she is very badly disfigured on her face. However, the body found was not Christiane, but a woman kidnapped by Louise, Génessier’s loyal assistant who was once disfigured by had her face fixed by him, and Christiane is alive, living in the chateau, hidden from the world and wearing a mask to cover her face. Dr. Génessier, trying to fix the pain he’s caused to Christiane, goes to extreme lengths by kidnapping young, single women to graft their face and put onto Christiane. However, as much as she wants a new face, Christiane does not want to be imprisoned by her father’s desire and seeks her own reconnection to the world she once saw.

Under The Skin
Dr. Génessier’s idea of a literal facelift and his intent is horrifying yet understanding. It is obsessive to right his wrong for the sake of his daughter’s beauty wrecked at his dispense. For the exception of one tremendous point-of-view shot of an unwitting victim who sees Christiane as she is, it is only a mask that represents her face, one that is plain with no marks – one that Dr. Génessier wants. She wants the new face, but cannot stand the mask, initially has animosity for the girls who are pretty and perfect but is conscious about being so separated by agreeing to be dead to others. The scene in which we see the graft is a brilliant montage of dead silence as we cut between a sweating Dr. Génessier, an equally nervous Louise, and a close-up of the kidnapped woman’s face as the scissors cut and are inserted on the edges of her face as the skin is pulled off. For one moment, right before we fade to black, we see – in black and white – a bloody surface. Equally impressive is the montage of a review on Christiane’s process: necrosis.

Aesthetics Of A Mentality

Director Georges Franju had his major works come out at the same time as the massive works of Truffaut, Godard, and the Left Bank, smothering his underrated work. He provides a simple chilling expression that demonstrates the subtle evil the lies underneath the surgical mask in order to master the improbable. But it is made at a dangerous price to where not even the detective can figure out. You can also notice the doctor’s madness through the experiments of his dogs, locked up like cows. Maurice Jarre, who would win three Oscars for his music on the David Lean epics Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and A Passage To India, puts on a carnivalesque score in what was his second film. It starts as a dark melody through the trees at night into the French countryside and ends in a whimsical tone with the freedom of the (metaphorical) new skin and away from the wretched place.

Eyes Without A Face is a peek through the mask of one innocent victim, made to be her father’s guinea for the sake of her once the pretty face and his redemption. It is science run amok in a story of trading identities, something that was reproduced in Face/Off and The Skin I Live In. The nightmares are poetic. The idea and shots of them burn in the conscience long after, even in black & white. And we leave the film touching our face to see if it is there still and not sagging off for Christiane’s next look. It is a petrifying feel that Franju gives and we become wary of our obsession with looks and the distance to go and get them again.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianSusbielles (Cine-A-Man)

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