Saturday, January 21, 2012

Les yeux sans visage (1960)

"Although too much for many critics of the day to stomach, Franju's masterpiece is now considered to be one of the greatest, most influential and disturbing horror films ever made." ~ written on the back DVD cover, which made me put off to watch this until my stomach was ready. Last night I finally decided to watch this and I was relieved to know it wasn't as scary as I had imagined. Les diaboliques (1955) is more thrilling.

Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur), a brilliant surgeon, helped by his assistant Louise (Alida Valli), kidnap young women and take their faces for his daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) whose face is gone during a car accident, which her father drove the car.

Of course it is not just an easy task to remove one's face and put it on another. If the skin doesn't match, it will not stay healthily and will be spoiled. Today perhaps they would do a DNA test first or something before start butchering, but in 1960, they only choose the victims by looking at their beauty skin. When the police finds a body drown in the river, Dr. Génessier acknowledges that it was Christiane's, leaving another father whose daughter is missing heart broken. Christiane herself wants to be dead. One thing that she really longs for, is to be with her fiancé Jacques; but this is impossible since she doesn't want Jacques to see her in her present state and he himself only knows that she has been dead. She sometimes calls him on the phone just to hear his voice, until the time she cannot take it anymore and whispers his name. Jacques goes to the police, but they only say that he is imagining things. They later send a young girl, Paulette, to Dr. Génessier's clinic. After examining her, the doctor sends her home, but she never reaches her home because Louise has kidnapped her. When asked about this, Dr. Génessier says that after leaving the clinic, a patient is no longer his responsibility. Therefore, he is cleared by the police.

The nightmare, however, must ends. Christiane lets Paulette go, kills Louise, and free the dogs, who all this time have become objects for Dr. Génessier's experiments. The dogs kill the doctor and Christiane walks towards the street. What becomes of her, I wonder.

The Edna's surgery scene is quite scary, although it's nothing compared to today's standard. I watched Conan a couple of days ago and the level of violence in that movie was very high that I had to turn my face away from the screen several times. I am not sure how it is with horror movies as I tend to avoid this genre. The surgery scene is not very scary for me because I figured out how it could be done.

I also wonder about the car crash, why Christiane's face is totally ruined but the eyes, hair, and body are intact. For the sake of art, perhaps.

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