EYES WITHOUT A FACE
Sunday, August 17
(1960, Georges Franju) A mysterious, plastic-raincoated woman drives through the night, stopping to dump a corpse in the river, its face concealed by a hat; later she stalks a young female student through the streets of Paris. A distinguished surgeon lectures to a rapt audience on the difficulties of the “heterograft,” then goes to police headquarters to identify the body of his daughter, horribly disfigured in a car crash—but the edges of the facial wound of this corpse are so clean they might have been cut with a scalpel. And who’s that huddled face down on her bed on the—locked—top floor of the doctor’s house?
For his second feature, Georges Franju, co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française and award-winning documentarist, invested a script by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (authors of Clouzot’s Diabolique AND Hitchcock’s Vertigo) with “exquisite, dread images… a vague, floating, almost lyric sense of horror” (Pauline Kael) in a savage parody of the scientific method gone to its Faustian limits (the film was originally released in the U.S. as The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus). With the great Pierre Brasseur (Children of Paradise) as the doctor; Alida Valli (The Third Man) as the nurse/mistress with her own secrets; and the ethereal Edith Scob (also appearing in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors), haunting in her simultaneously beautiful and creepy mask. Scob floats through operating room and dog kennel in her high-collared, almost iridescent white coat as doves fly past—made all the creepier by the stark b&w cinematography of Eugen Schüfftan, creator of the special effects for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and a suitably eerie score by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia). Not for those squeamish about scalpels, graphic facial surgery, or angry dogs, but “although the plot is as wildly fantastic as anything Hollywood ever dreamed up, Franju invests it with a weird poetry in which the influence of Cocteau is unmistakable” (Phil Hardy, Encyclopedia of Horror). Approx. 88 min. 35mm.
“Perhaps the most elegant horror movie ever made.”
– Pauline Kael