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Eyes Without a Face [1960]

Eyes Without a Face [1960]: Doctor Génessier, with the help of his unquestioning assistant Louise, kidnaps young women and surgically removes their faces to fix his daughter, Christiane after a car accident disfigures her face. This is the second fiction feature film of the French documentary filmmaker Georges Franju. When released, it was wildly controversial for its gruesome surgical scenes. Doctor Génessier is played by Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli as Louise, and Edith Scob as Christiane.

Undying will, In contrast to the book that this film is based on, the writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac shift focus from the affairs of Doctor Génessier to his daughter’s struggles dealing with her newly disfigured face. One of the main conflicts with this is her father’s undying will to “fix” her, even though he further damages her face with each surgery he performs on her. Christiane’s body rejects the skin of her new face after a seemingly successful surgery and is forced to wear a mask that her father forces her to wear throughout the film.

The dead should be quiet, To the rest of the word, Christiane is buried in the ground. One of the first scenes is Doctor Génessier identifying the body of a random woman as his own daughter. This is another struggle that she faces since her fiancé, Jacques Vernon, is a student of her father. She feels guilty for the women that her father kidnaps. She is affected by this guilt and the loneliness of being confined to her room.

Ambiguous intentions, In Génessier‘s basement, he keeps many German shepherds and doves. He uses these German shepherds as practice for his surgical skin replacement. This fact leads the viewer to question the exact intentions of the doctor’s trials to fix his daughter’s face. Is he operating on his daughter out of love, or just for further advancement of his practice?

Dogs and doves, This movie lacks in its storytelling, but it absolutely makes it up in its imagery when the story falters. After three viewings of this film, it is hard to pinpoint everything that happens without referring to online sources. Even Franju admits this by saying he doesn’t have the “story telling gift”. This film oozes a beautiful yet creepy tone throughout. The mood that Edith Scob gives to a scene is almost like she is from another world. From the beginning scene of Louise disposing of an unknown corpse to the blank mask that Christiane wears, this film is fantastic at making the viewer feel uneasy with every scene.

Controversial… at the time, At the time of release, this film spawned an outroar from basically everybody. At many viewings, many audience members either fainted or simply walked out of the theater when it came time for the scenes of surgery. A reviewer in England was nearly fired for expressing positive interest about the film. One notable event where this happened was at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1960 where seven people fainted. In response to this situation, Franju’s response was “Now I know why Scotsmen wear skirts.” While this anecdote may be interesting, as a modern-day viewer, this movie doesn’t have the same punch it had when it was released, unlike A Clockwork Orange [1971] where audience members still walk out of theaters to this day. Though its poor reception in the 1960s, it is now well regarded as a classic and even has its own Criterion Collection release.

 

A beautifully creepy movie that sadly lacks in its ability to clearly tell the story.

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Eyes Without a Face [1960]
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