Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960)
Reviewed on 2009 October 23
Very disturbing French horror movie from the early sixties, gruesome and yet elegant (honestly, is that a vintage French horror thing?) and more psychologically upsetting than a lot of current stuff. High Tension? Saw XIVXX? As if. How about a whack-job surgeon and his crazy lover peeling faces off beautiful women and trying to attach them to his mutilated daughter, who lost her own once-gorgeous face in a horrible accident? And how about they keep doing it because all his previous efforts never quite take?
Brilliant and crazy Docteur Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) and his loyal, amoral assistant Louise (Alisa Valli) have one mission: to repair the faceless Christiane (Edith Scob, who in real life looked like she hopped off a Boticelli canvas). Christiane floats around her father’s estate in a creepy mask that’s featureless and yet hints at the beauty she once was, seeming to patiently wait for her father to get it right this time. Genessier may have lost it, but he’s persistent, because as long as Louise keeps going to get him fresh material to work with, he’ll just keep plugging away.
Besides being gory this pushes so many psychological buttons, especially for women. This makes you think about losing your beauty or having it outright stolen from you, and if that doesn’t horrify you, you’re more secure than I am. The acting is wonderful though, with Edith Scob owning it as the ethereal Christiane. I think it was brilliant of Franju to use such a pretty woman here, because it makes her loss that much more of a wallop. We even get an explanation as to why Louise is an Ygor for the doctor. The only complaint I have, and it’s miniscule, is the goofy “chase scene” music. It’s almost comedic and paired with what’s happening here it’s really jarring. I have the Criterion DVD, which means I shelled out a bit more and waited a little longer, but got a disc with a great transfer, legible subtitles, and in this case an extra I didn’t even want to deal with: the added slaughterhouse film Franju added as a “gift”. This thing was bloody enough.
Three chocolate morsels.