Friday, 20 June 2014
JUNE 20, 2014
YEUX SANS VISAGE/ Eyes Without a Face (1959) directed by Georges Franju. *****
One of the great strengths of European cinema for me is that some of its best directors have been able to appreciate the poetic surrealism in pulp fiction. EYES WITHOUT A FACE is one of the supreme horror movies of the 1950/60's. Under Franju's direction, what is basically another mad doctor plot, is transformed into a powerful gothic nightmare full of images that burn themselves into the mind's eye. Who could possibly fail to be horrified by the unflinching operation scene - time and hundreds of inferior films may have lessened its impact for today's de-sensitised audiences but back in 1960 it was phenomenally effective and enough to get the film banned in England for several years. The scene where Edith Scob empathises with and comforts the dogs who share both her fate and imprisonment, Maurice Jarre's hauntingly jolly score, Alida Valli hunting victims among the students of Paris, the sinister CV2 and the unforgettable climatic image. I've already mentioned Scob and Valli so it is only fair to mention Pierre Brasseur as the coldly unemotional doctor. This is essential viewing. The story and themes of EYES WITHOUT A FACE have surfaced in a myriad of inferior films (Robert Hartford-Davis's awful CORRUPTION is one such) but only Pedro Almodovar, with THE SKIN I LIVE IN, suggesting that Franju's true spirit had been appreciated.