Chris & Marcey’s April Movie Exchange: Week 1 – Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Movie Exchange

What’s a Blog-a-thon? This movie exchange is a challenge, its participants have chosen films the other has not seen to watch and review.
Criteria for April: Foreign films we love
Why Marcey Chose This Film For Chris: Eyes Without A Face is a masterpiece of French cinema, one that I only discovered a few years ago thanks to my good friend Sam. The film is about a surgeon, who kidnaps young women and uses them to try and graph his daughter a new face. His daughter wears a mask, with her face disfigured, hence the title of the film. It is beautifully shot (in b&w), and it has gore that was well ahead of its time. This film has influenced a lot since it was released, from films such as Open Your Eyes, Face/Off, The Skin I Live In, just to name a few. Certainly this is required viewing, I was very taken with it, and I do wonder how Chris will react.


Chris’ Review
Following the horrible disfigurement of his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob) face, Dr. Genessier (Pieree Brasseur) attempts to create a new face so as to remove his guilt over destroying her face in a car accident that he is responsible for. The only issue is that he requires the faces of young women, that are kidnapped by his assistant so he can graft their faces onto his daughter. The plot sounds like something from the pages of Mary Shelley but is itself more an examination of anguish than it is a horror picture.

Eyes Without a Fcae is one of those films that I’ve always heard about but never really got around to finding the time to sit down and watch, its also one of many films that I’d read and heard so much about that I has already built an idea of what I expected it to look like. I had always envisioned that the film would be more along the lines of Edward Sissorhands, which I was partly right, but was also quite surprised by the final result.

The film is quite confronting, especially when dealing with the abduction and operation of young girls by Genessier as these girls are befriended by Louise (Alida Valli) and then taken back to his house were he puts them on the operation table. The most confronting moments of the film are when you watch Genessier and Lousie operate on these girls, the main victim being Edna Gruber (Juliette Mayniel) as they cut off her face so that it can be grafted onto Christiane. This scene is really disturbing mostly for the fact that you actually witness Edna’s face come off with a brief, yet still shocking glimpse at what is underneath. It is a truly disturbing yet highly memorable scene.

Although what coulod be more disturbing is the fact that Christiane, who hides behind a very ghost like mask that blends onto the rest of her features, is hidden away from sight after she is thought dead by the authorities after the body of one of the girls used in her fathers experiments is discovered in a river. Christiane has to live with the knowledge that she can be restored at the cost of someone else’s life. In her state of house arrest, Christiane moves throughout the house like a ghostly spectre and it is these scenes that are more disturbing than anything else in the film, especially when she finally puts her foot down to stop both her father and Lousies experiments.

Eyes without a face

There were a few things that I found a little frustrating whilst watching the film, mostly to do with the opening score by composer Maurice Jarre. Whilst I enjoyed the music in the film is was just the track that plays during the opening credits that really put me off as it reminded me of some of the irritating score that Jarre wrote for David Lean’s bloated romance Ryan’s Daughter. The side plot of the police investigation also didn’t really work with me as it kinda went nowhere in the end as the characters involved with this side plot, which included Alexandre Rignault and Claude Brasseur as two police inspectors who seem to be quite lazy with their job, and Francois Guerin as Christiane’s ex-fiance. These are three characters that you don’t really get to know much about other than who they are and what they do, but even that isn’t enough to make them useful throughout the film.

Regardless of these minor flaws it was a really enjoyable and very creepy film. I don’t see it as a horror film and whislt many will view Dr. Genessier as a Dr. Frankenstien or even a mad scientist like character, he really isn’t. He is just a desperate father trying to make up for a mistake that he was responsible for, and all he really wants to do is give his daughter her life back. The film is beautifully shot, particularly with the scenes of Christiane walking around the house and finishes on a strong visual of her releasing the animals that are locked up in the house and then releases herself as she almost glides out into the night.


Review written by Christopher Innis

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