Post the name of the latest movie you've seen and your rating out of 10.
Sunshine Boys (t0073766) - 7/10 - loved Burns, hated Matthau.
Juliet, Naked (2018), 9/10.
Ethan Hawke is having an insanely good year. This film should do well at the Golden Globes (comedy categories). If they ignore it as well as Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke? There is little hope for their credibility. This is up their proverbial alley.
EYES WITHOUT A FACE
The slasher movie sub-genre was born in 1960, with "Psycho", "Peeping Tom" and "Eyes Without a Face". Yet we all know
which movie got the lion-share of popularity.
Except for Hitchcok, Powell or Franju's chief claim of fame wasn't horror or thrillers so they injected their personal vision into stories usually handled by genre-directors, catching audiences and critics off-guard, causing controversy and getting their overdue praises after decades of probation.
Today, these two films are horror classics highlighting
their own cultural background: "Psycho" has the everyday feel of an American B-movie and makes
a monster out of a boy-next-door character, "Peeping Tom" challenges British puritanism and establishment by not
squeezing one drop of blood yet manages to be extremely unnerving. "Eyes
Without a Face" does the same while as dispassionate and cold as a French
drama or documentary.
Dispassionate doesn't mean that there's no feelings involved, on the contrary, the film is about Dr. Génessier, a surgeon overwhelmed by guilt and eager to transplant a new face on his daughter Christiane, disfigured after the car accident he caused, for that, he needs... you get the point. Look at the remarkable contrast: a man of high intellect hiding beneath a facade of respectability a psychopathy that makes Mr. Hyde feels like Dr. Jekyll. It is a mad scientist figure but Pierre Brasseur plays it straight without any 'bua-ha-ha' moment, he takes his job as seriously as horrifically.
I insist on the film still using horror tropes because it's like Franju was dedicated to a genre he wanted to treat with an uncommon respect like Clouzot when he made Diaboliques. Another horror "cliché" is the foreign assistant, Italian actress Alida Valli plays the role of the head-hunter, literally. The woman is even creepier than her boss because she uses her motherly charm to lure young women into the deadliest and most horrific trap. But once again, she does it out of gratitude and admiration to the man who fixed her face, if not love.
This is the most unsettling contradiction of emotions maybe explaining why the film switches between two different scores. The leitmotif music (composed by Maurice Jarre) is a sort of Carnival tune that gives an eerie tonality to the crime, by triviliazing them. When the film gets "serious" and confronts us to the real horror, whether a glimpse on the daughter's disfigured face or the surgery, the score is different, it is silent.
Franju’s documentary style gives a scary level of realism and a clinical
tone embodying the cold detachment of a man who has no sympathy whatsoever for
his victims, the only remains of feelings not devoted to Christiane are for his
ego, like a Jekyllian or a Frankenstein figure, he realizes the implications of
a successful transplant in terms of medical famen (the twisted side put aside)
and regrets he could never take pride of his actions on a public level.
This is the real horror in the film, more than any gory parts (and there are many). The film is about the way positive emotions can distort one's sense of morality and inspire the worst. Brasseur is so confident and so charismatic that he's believable as man capable to fool everyone, even the Police, so it all makes sense that the only person who can see through him is the only one he doesn’t try to fool, his own daughter Christiane (Edith Scob), the "soul" of the story.
Indeed, a good horror movie is often a character study allowing us to dig into the intriguing roots of vileness and it's interesting to see how gradually Freudian the three slasher classics are, in "Psycho", Bates' mother was absent but we had hints of their tormenting relationship, in "Peeping Tom", the father was absent too but explicit footage showed showed the devastating effects it has on the boy. In "Eyes Without a Face", the father is much present and we realize that he didn't just destroy his girl's face but her identity. Isn't what we often blame our parents for, preventing us from being ourselves? And don't we blame ourselves for blaming them?
The tragedy of Christiane is that she could accept her fate if it wasn't for her love to a man and the hope the promise of a new face nourishes in her heart, she's aware of her father's actions but is ready to accept them in the name of love... once again, love is ambivalent and disturbing in the way it confronts us to our own contradictions: what would we do out of love? We know for Dr. Génessier and the assistant but Christiane is the real mystery on which most of the suspense is hanging. She a victim all right but is she leaning toward good or evil? We can’t tell as her mask that replicates her features looks creepy in its emotionless and neutral whiteness (inspiring Michael Meyers' mask in "Halloween") and let’s remember that the Greek word for mask is 'persona'.
More interestingly, the word "personne"
means both "person" and "nobody" in French. Assumed to be
dead after her father "recognized" one of his victim's body,
Christiane is legally nobody and with her white night-gown, she walks into the
mansion with the grace of a fallen angel. Playing a character behind a mask is
quite rough for an actor but Edith Scob uses her eyes and her body to emphasize
ghostly nature, especially when she visits the dogs and the doves, all caged
for her father’s experiments, and she doesn't walk but glide through the
corridors, like Belle visiting the Beast' castle in "La Belle et la
The cinematography is as haunting as in Jean Cocteau's classic, and the whole atmosphere with its silences punctuated with dog barks, its odd music and a few jump scares turns the movie into one of the most nightmarish experiences. It's like the film wears an ominous mask all the time and then removes it every once in a while when we need an adrenalin shot. And I guess that's why it became such an influential classic, when most slasher films provide overdoses of haemoglobin and jump scares, here's a film that strikes for its realism it is in its depiction of "reasonable" people caught in a spiral of evil madness, in a sort of inner poetry 'à la Française'.
And if not the best of the three iconic 1960 slasher films, it is certainly the most graphic, so as soon as you see the operation, get ready for it and if you can't, just make yourself a "face without eyes".
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