TIFF Cinematheque presents a Summer in France: The reputation of ‘Eyes Without a Face’ has not been greatly exaggerated
Eyes Without a Face
Directed by Georges Franju
Written by Boileau-Narcejac, Jean Redon, Claude Sautet and Pierre Gascar
At an Edinburgh Film Festival screening of Eyes Without a Face, seven audience members, according to L’Express, fainted and “dropped like flies”.
In response, director Georges Franju opined, in a particularly tactless exercise in foreign affairs, “now I know why Scotsmen wear skirts”.
To be fair to the Scottish, Eyes Without a Face is rather sordid, hideous, grotesque and morbid, but, to be fair to Franju, the film is also rather amazing. Unwelcomed and shunned in 1960 (to say the least), Eyes Without a Face has since been elevated to legendary status and is still as unsettling as it was when it was first released.
In a narrative sense, the film was seen as a pioneer of the mad doctor story, with Pierre Brasseur playing Dr. Génessier, a brilliant surgeon who uses his skills to reconstruct the mutilated face of his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob), who is forced to wear a mask.
Wracked with guilt for causing her disfigurement, Génessier tries obsessively to repair what he’s broken, enlisting the help of Louise (Alida Valli), a woman whose face was previously restored by Génessier.
Together, they lure young women into a gruesome trap, taking their faces and grafting it onto Christiane’s.