The Face of Another (Tanin no kao) (1966)
Reviewed on 2009 April 20
Creepy and disturbing psychodrama from Japan, which reminded me of nothing so much as what you’d get if Eugene O’Neill wrote a broody horror script and hired Hieronymus Bosch to do the set design. I woke up one morning and turned the TV on to this, and even when it was hard to watch I couldn’t change the channel.
Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) is horribly burnt in an accident, and spends much time thereafter wearing white bandages on his face — he’s not ready to let people see the toll taken by the fire, since the way they react to the bandages is brutal enough. His marriage and career are threatened, until a psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) comes up with a way to help him. He creates a mask for him that turns him into a handsome man again (for twelve hours at a time, anyway). Unfortunately, the mask itself seems to create its own problems for the increasingly unhinged Okuyama.
This movie snuck throughly under my radar — I’d never even heard of it, but it got under my skin. Based on the little Comcast blurb about it I was expecting Okuyama to get revenge on the people who shunned him. It turned into an unsettling, two hour examination of how much our lives are tied up to something that should be as trivial as our beauty. This was a squirmfest on several levels. I have to admit watching Okuyama puff a cigarette though the white ace bandages covering his head was uncomfortable, and I felt awful for the Miki Irie character. This would make a disturbing double feature with Eyes Without a Face. Any friends that hate subtitles? If they like psychological horror, tell them to get over it for this.
Three chocolate morsels and a cup of sake.