English Title: Eyes without a Face
Original Title: Les yeux sans visage
Country: France, Italy
Genre: Drama, Horror
Director: Georges Franju
based on the novel of Jean Redon
Music: Maurice Jarre
Cinematography: Eugen Schüfftan
This is the provenance of Edith Scob’s iconic image as the girl-with-a-white-mask, to whom Leos Carax pays the homage 52 years later in HOLY MOTORS, by asking Scob to put on the expressionless prop once again in his recondite omnibus. And Ms. Scob has a most otherworldly countenance, which firstly absorbs us through Christiane’s glinting eyes, a young girl whose face is savagely disfigured during a car accident caused by her father, a renowned surgeon Doctor Génessier (Brasseur), thus, his road to redemption will course through a grisly and amoral route to a bitter end.
A forefather of gothic and body horror, EYES WITHOUT A FACE is French filmmaker Georges Franju’s pièce de résistence, but in the eyes of a less squeamish viewer, its scary quotient isn’t that high, the hyped face skin-removing surgery set piece is a greatly concocted legerdemain, but the helping hand of its make-up team is unmissable to notice, also the gore is roundly sanitized and the only really startling moment is when Christiane reveals her skeletal visage in a jiffy during an oneiric sequence precipitating the scream of one of the hapless victims Edna Grüber (Mayniel), elsewhere, the film holds together a taut yet uncanny overtone in solemn company with its formulaic plot-device, which incorporates sundry narrative hiccups, such as Edna’s demise, is it a slip of foot or a suicidal boldness? Or, the seemingly odd situation where Christiane is left sober when her father begins the operation near the climax, since in the last round, she is also put into sleep during the process.
After all, it is an ensorcelling Grand Guignol festooned with copious visual niceties and emotional restraint (from Brasseur’s impassive but authorial culprit to Alida Valli’s visibly disturbed but nonetheless stalwart accomplice), plus a mesmeric score from Maurice Jarre, also it is a rewarding coup de maître that poetic justice arrives in the hand of Christiane’s ethical awakening instead of the inept police investigation, a masked angel descends with a dove in her hand, indeed poeticism can germinate from something heinously reprehensible.