Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)

Netflix suggested Eyes Without a Face on several occasions and I totally ignored it. The majority of Netflix's recommendations have been good to great, but that rare stinker will cause some doubt to creep in. This didn't look or sound like my kind of film. Honestly, I really hate the thought of reducing my passion for film into a bunch of cold ones and zeros, and then attempting to predict what I'll like next. I'd like to think I'm too complicated for that -- fortunately, I'm not...

A recent airing on Turner Classic Movies made me a fan of this 1960 French film directed by Georges Franju.

Dr. GĂ©nessier kidnaps beautiful young women and steals their skin in an attempt repair his disfigured daughter Christiane's face.

Sounds like your basic slasher film with a high potential for lots of camp and schlock, but this understated foreign thriller surprisingly defies the odds.

I've been on a steady diet of foreign horror/thrillers for quite some time now. Most of them have been different from the typical Hollywood fare -- different, not necessarily better. I've been drawn to stuff that doesn't fit neatly into a specific genre box and this film fits the bill. It's basically the love child of a stylish art house film and your basic B-movie plot. And while the story might not blow you away, it's hard not to appreciate some of the surreal visuals.

What the film also does very well is present sympathetic antagonists. The doctor isn't a monster, he does monstrous things for the sake of his daughter, all the while blaming himself for her condition. The violence itself is pretty tame by today's standards. Your average episode of C.S.I. is more graphic. Two scenes stood out for me: the face transplant scene, and the time lapse shot of a slowly decaying face -- reminded me a little bit of The Walking Dead.

Eyes With Out a Face also seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In from last year -- I'm going to do post about that one shortly. If that wasn't enough, check this out:

John Carpenter is a fan as well.

Now I was familiar with this Billy Idol song, but unfamiliar with its origins:

Finally, brought to you by the magic of youtube, the first ten minutes:

Doesn't it almost feel like the opening of a Hitchcock film?

If I'm going to discover more hidden gems like this, I for one, gladly welcome our new Netflix algorithm overlords.

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