Sunday, July 18, 2010

Something Is Missing...

The first (of a whopping two) film criticism classes I ever took was a one-day-a-week English elective on French cinema. Though I didn’t quite relish the act of watching 3-hour romantic epics in the comfort of my university’s drab library, I did absorb something of an appreciation for moody Europeans and their innovation behind the camera. 7 years later, it’s somehow more rewarding to discover classic films without the confines of writing mini-essays.
Wait a minute--
Quick Plot: Attractive blue-eyed young ladies are disappearing in 1950s Paris, their bodies later washing up in the Seine sans facial skin. While the police remain woefully ignorant, we meet Professor Genessier, a surgeon on the cutting edge (ba-dom bom bom!) of Face/Off style transplants.
A cold man, Professor Genessier has some personal investment in honing his craft: his once-beautiful daughter Christianne had her face all but torn off in a tragic car accident. While the world--including her fiancee--mourn the faked death of Christianne, her father and his loyal secretary collect young women in attempt after attempt to find and maintain Christianne’s new look.

Filmed in the worldwide censorship-happy ‘50s, Eyes Without a Face is an eerie, disturbing, and ultimately quite sad little tale that is as effective as it is influential. A creepy score sets the mood and documentarian director George Franju plays with his camera to maximize effect. You’ll probably be able to predict the direction of most of the plot, but the story remains engrossing and beautiful and unsettling way.
High Points
The circus-like score is unsettling and neat, but the choice to silence it during the famous transplant scene is even more powerful

The entire physical design of Christianne is quite striking. With her slender frame, oversized sleeves, and blank mask, actress Edith Scob comes off like a porcelain doll sitting atop an Expressionist toy chest

Low Points
Though I was intrigued by the stoic guilt of Professor Genessier and sympathized with Christianne’s plight, the lack of central character (and third act emergence of psuedo-protagonists) keeps the film a tad cold to the viewer
Lessons Learned
Never, under any circumstances, get arrested for petty crime in Paris when a murderer is on the loose hunting young women who fit your exact profile. You never know when you’ll be put into a dangerous, irresponsibly run undercover operation that puts your life in danger
Always note the jewelry style of overly generous strangers

Just because you feed your cruelly caged dogs does not mean they don’t secretly want to eat you
One can easily watch Eyes Without a Face to learn a few early camera tricks and catch some inspiration for Michael Myers’ mask, but this haunting thriller also holds up as an engrossing view. Currently on Netflix’s Instant Watch, it’s a hearty recommendation for both classy cred and good old fashioned entertainment reasons. Watch it for culture and sadness.


  1. I almost watched this tonight, but, due to some television trauma, didn't because I didn't want to watch a subbed film on a much smaller-than-normal screen. I have been really wanting to see it for some time, though, and I remember Andre from The Horror Digest raved about it sometime back, so you giving it the thumbs up is a good sign.

  2. Oooh now I must check out ye olde Horror Digest review and travel into the future to read your take. I'll see you there. Bring your robot maid cause I'll probably make a mess.

  3. Though I have yet to see this film as well, its been on my list for some time. I find it remarkable that removing so few features from the human face can make it look so "alien" and "estranged."

    I'm always a sucker for a mad scientist flick. Suppose one of these days I really should just bite the bullet and get a Netflix account. :)

  4. I will check this out, but I'm gonna play Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face over the credit sequence music, because--and I say this sight unseen--it will improve whatever they've got playing in that movie.

  5. Strange Kid! No Netflix? Isn't that the newest base in the updated food pyramid? Don't 9 out of 10 doctors advise 9-11 servings of Netflix a day? Isn't it the choice of a new generation? How are you still ALIVE?

    Kangas, I'm not sure. The score of Eyes Without a Face is so good. Although there is a whole silent face removal scene, so perhaps that's your in. Let me know how it goes.

  6. Hahah wow. I read this last night and made a mental note to agree with YOU wholeheartedly with those same words when I was less tired and I wake up to find you agreeing with ME wholeheartedly. This may be the wackiest day that ever happen. And not only that but Mr. Matt is advertising my reviews on other blogs! Best. Day. Ever.

    Hehe but yes I thought this was splendid. I really couldn't believe that they were actually removing her face! The circus music was possibly the greatest creation of all time though. And that little car. Siigh! Glad you liked it : )

  7. Hive mind! Quick! I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 243. Go!

    If I ever get married, I think i would like to walk down the aisle to that circus theme. Also, instead of a facial, I'll totally just take another b*tch's face. It's done.

  8. Kangas said it! I knew the title was a song too!

    Unfortunately when I was taking all my 2 film analysis courses. We weren't given anything as eerie as this flick to digest.

    Sounds like it's worth a go.

  9. I need to hurry up and see this movie, both because it is always well reviewed, and seeing it written always gets the Billy Idol song stuck in my head.

    Fear! the floating head of Billy Idol:

  10. Ah! So much floating headedness! So much dry ice! It's like a Super Mario villain has invaded a warehouse and commandeered the karaoke machine!

  11. Love the blog!

    I've given you a Versatile Blogger Award:

    Stay Spooky!

  12. I also gave you a Versatile Blooger Award because you can never have too many!

  13. "Always note the jewelry style of overly generous strangers"
    I learned that lesson from watching Dracula's Daughter
    Great site
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  14. Aw, thanks Spooky & Jen!

    ToT Pete: I have not seen Dracula's Daughter, I can never remember if that's one of the Dracula sequels that comes highly or not at all recommended. Your call?