Friday, March 18, 2011

Cinema wonder of the day: EYES WITHOUT A FACE

Infusing the Frankenstein mythos with Nazi mad science and the incest subtext key to all great horror films, Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1960) is one of the greatest acts of genre poetry committed to film. It's the type of film broken toy viewers will take to heart and hold dear for life just as regular folks will enjoy inexplicable wonders as well.

Appropriately directed by a man otherwise best known for an anti-animal-cruelty documentary, it shares with all nightmares a simple plot that seems more to float than unravel. A mad surgeon (Pierre Brassuer) has apparently lost his daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) in a car crash. 

Actually, she’s alive, her face disfigured and covered with an inexplicably disturbing white mask, while her father sends out an assistant to kill young women in search of the right flesh for his grotesque fantasy of face replacement. The final, Cocteau-gorgeous shot of Christiane’s release from Oedipal horror amid mad dogs and a flurry of white doves is unforgettable. Like much of the film, you don’t know quite know why it’s so affecting, and that’s Franju’s genius.

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