Blu-ray review: Eyes Without a Face

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli
Director: Georges Franju

eyes without a face 1Eccentric French director Georges Franju brings a uniquely cold, clinical sensibility to this Grand Guignol tale concerning Doctor Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), an eminent surgeon who disfigures his daughter Christiane(Edith Scob) in a car crash and then attempts to repair the damage by grafting the faces of kidnapped girls onto her. The first forty minutes or so are slow, methodical and eerily quiet, leaving the viewer completely unprepared for what was then (and is still now) a disturbingly graphic scene of surgical gore. Throughout, there are profound musings on the meaning of faces and masks – the eerie white mask Christiane, rendered faceless by her accident and cut off from humanity, is forced to wear, and the surgeon’s mask that Genessier puts on as he butchers his victims, driven by impulses he doesn’t acknowledge or understand – expressed, not in words, but through unforgettable imagery: the dogs (kept for vivisection) howling in the basement which seem to express Genessier latent insanity and Christiane herself, half ghost, half Pierrot. A stone cold classic. 10/10

The transfer is a little grainy and rough-textured but very atmospheric, with plenty of detail and depth of field. In the masterful opening scene with Alida Valli driving the 2CV, you can see blood tricking under the hat of the shadowy figure in the backseat. Deep focus compositions such as the sequence of Genessier mounting the staircase and the funeral scene have a solid, 3D quality, and in the surgical sequence you can see the individual beads of sweat sparkling on Genessier’s forehead. 7/10

A mini biopic of Marie Curie by Franju which reflects the director’s interest in scientific methodology, something that was to stand him in good stead in Eyes Without a Face. Slightly scratchy picture quality. ~ A lovely, crisp transfer of La Premiere Nuit, Franju’s celebrated, beautifully shot 19 min short about a young boy spending time on the Paris Metro after hours and seeing eerie figments in the subterranean gloom. ~ A 49 min French language documentary about the director, with Edith Scob and others talking about the director’s troubled career, unusual techniques and fragile, unworldly character. ~ !7-min interview with Edith Scob in which she talks with great insight about their collaboration. ~ A typically scholarly and densely wrought audio commentary – really more of an essay – by American critic Tim Lucas, with detailed bios of the cast and analysis of scenes. 10/10


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