Eyes Without a Face 👀
The second day of our 31 days of horror brings us to Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face (based on the novel by Jean Redon). We're getting freaky now. This is a film where a mad surgeon steals the faces of young women and attempts to graft them onto his disfigured daughter. Christaine's (Édith Scob) statuesque mask is simple yet uncanny and immediately iconic. So iconic it's surprising Hollywood has yet to remake this classic. (Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In could be viewed as a spiritual successor.)
The pacing of Eyes Without a Face may be too languid for some modern audiences, but like with Christiane's mask, the stillness of the film is where the dread builds. Elongated moments like that of Christiane wandering her empty home, a car ride to the horror house, the carrying of an unconscious body to the operating table, or graphic "face-lifting" procedures all pay off, if not in mood than in the film's satisfying and poetic climax. In fact, my dad watched alongside me attentive all the way, despite expressing reluctance in watching any movie that was in black & white. Adding color would probably lesson the eeriness, actually.
The performances are stellar all around. One might think that the mask does most of the the acting for Scob, but that's not the case. Her displays of depression and anguish seep through with authenticity, making sequences more heartbreaking than the usual horror film. Pierre Brasseur plays her villainous surgeon father with enough subtlety that I believe some lunatic like him could exist. It's nice to see a "mad scientist" type have a motive a parent might sympathize with.
Franju takes a minimalist approach to the filmmaking, yet serves up memorable imagery. It's a tale that seems almost plausible, and thus ever more frightening. Eyes Without a Face is undoubtedly a classic... already vying for a top spot on my 31 days of horror list.