Friday, October 29, 2010


EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Les yeux sans visage) is a French horror film from 1959. It showed up as a Netflix suggestion when I was searching for scary movies to watch for Halloween. Turns out it was a good suggestion, it's much more in the vein of what I enjoy than most horror films.

This is without a doubt one of the strangest films I've ever seen. The plot centers around a reconstructive surgeon who is obsessed with fixing his daughter after a car wreck destroys her face.

Most of it is much more of a thriller than a horror film. Parts of it seem more like an art film. The visual design is great, and very creepy. Marice Jarre's score is great as well, and the fact that little music is used adds the effectiveness of the film. In fact it seems that this film may have influenced 60s filmmakers from Rod Serling's TWILIGHT ZONE to Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (which I am psyched to see tomorrow night with live orchestra), as well as Kubrick/Spielberg’s later EYES WIDE SHUT.

One of the strange things about the film is its restraint in the first third. They never show the girl's disfigured face. But then they suddenly show, in gruesome detail, a face removal operation for a transplant. The scene is strangely staged like a medical documentary. With no music, it's surprisingly lifelike, although the incision and blood effects are weak, it's clear they were going for reality, and not the kind of gore we saw last night in EVIL DEAD.

The acting runs the gamut. Much of it is quite good, including the doctor and his daughter (the actresses' real face is never seen, yet she is truly creepy).

The other thing that is strange about this film is that it’s no longer science fiction, it’s actually medically possible to performa a face transplant. In fact I watched an interview over the summer with a face transplant recipient on ABC over the summer, and I remember remarking to my wife that it was like something out of a horror movie. Turns out it actually was. It’s adds another layer of weirdness to watching the film.

I would recommend this to fans of thrillers and foreign art films. It's very eerie and many of the visual images will stick with you.
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