Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) (1960)

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Directed: GeorgesFranju

Staring: PierreBrasseur

Based Upon: Les yeux sans visage by Jean Redon

Plot: “When his daughter's face is terribly disfigured in a car accident that he caused, a plastic surgeon becomes obsessed with making things right. But his plan to give his daughter her looks back involves kidnapping young girls and removing their faces.” – Netflix.

“That sounds unpleasant.” – My wife’s response to the above description.

 This is the first film I have watched specifically for this blog. 

While I believe that the first two entries (8 ½ and It’s Such a Beautiful Day) are masterpieces, I wouldn't say that Eyes Without a Face is for everyone.  

How I Discovered It: I probably first read about this film in my copy of 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die.

However in the past month (since I decided to watch it for this blog) I have heard about Eyes Without a Face from at least three separate sources.  It's sort of like how when you hear a word for the first time you will undoubtedly hear it again within the next 48 hours.

Memorable Moment: I would have to go with the infamous surgery scene (mentioned above), in which the male lead removes a young woman’s face to transplant it on his deformed daughter.  There is little gore in the rest of the film (at least until the last five minutes), which makes the scene all the more shocking.  

The surgery is hard to watch today so I can't imagine what it was like in the 1960's before intense gore became a staple in most horror films.  Theater patrons supposedly fainted during the first theatrical release.     

Background: The Eyes Without a Face was directed by George Franju, who apparently had mostly worked on documentaries up until this point.

The director was cautioned not to include gore (which would upset French censors), tortured animals (which would upset English censors) and mad-scientists (which would upset German censors).  Of course, all three of these are included in the film, which did end up being heavily edited in many areas.  

The movie has become a cult classic.  Many view it as an allegory of the Holocaust.  Franju had already directed a series of documentaries in the 1950's concerning World War II.

Eyes Without a Face was released in America in 1962 with the title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus.

Who Should Embrace It: I would recommend Eyes Without a Face to fans of “quiet horror” (is that a genre?).  It is a film that focuses more on tone, suspense and setting than jump scares.  There is little gore outside of the surgery scene but the film is filled with images that will linger in your memory.   
I would say that fans of The Others and The Sixth Sense should check it out. The movie is undoubtedly worth the time of any follower of Hitchcock.  The film does have a slow pace but it is worth the wait.  Franju knows exactly what to show in explicit detail and what to leave up to the viewer's imagination.

This is not a movie to watch if you are in the mood for something that will move quickly or a film where everything is explained and wrapped up in a tidy bow.  The ending is very ambiguous.  Also, animal lovers should be warned that it is heavily implied that the doctor experiments on dogs.   

Connections to Other Works:  As you may have guessed, it has been suggested that the face removal surgery scene inspired the face transplant in face/off.  Ironically, the scene filmed in the 1960's is more graphic than the scene in the R rated 1990's action thriller.

John Carpenter (one of my personal favorite horror directors) has claimed that the expressionless white mask in Eyes Without a Face was an inspiration for the Michael Myer's mask.  

This film may have also inspired the Billy Idol song, Eyes Without a Face.  

So if nothing else, at least the movie gave us that. 

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