Directed by Georges Franju [Other horror films: N/A]
This French film, commonly known as Eyes without a Face (Les yeux sans visage for my French friends), is one of those classics that I don’t care for. More than anything, once you move past it’s okay story and compelling characters, I find the film somewhat ponderous.
Maybe that’s just how French cinema was at the time. I’ve not seen many from that time period, but both Diabolique (Les diaboliques) and Rififi (Du rififi chez les hommes) came out in 1955, and I had similar feelings about them. The story here is done in such a generally-safe manner (the only scene, throughout the whole film, that really stands out is the face-removal sequence) that it just feels as though it’s dragging.
Pierre Brasseur does decent as a doctor who is trying to save his daughter, but I’m not able to really feel for him, especially as it’s clear his daughter would rather die than keep living as she is. Playing his daughter is Edith Scob, who doesn’t have much in the way of character or meaningful dialogue, but she wears a mask like no other. Alida Valli’s character has a chance to be interesting at times, but never actually becomes interesting, and as much as you’d think that François Guérin’s character would become relevant to the plot, he never really does.
That face-removal scene is pretty solid. It’s not too hard to sit through by any means (maybe partially because the film’s in black-and-white), and it’s done pretty tastefully (which could be said for the whole of the film), so though it’s gory (and the only gory scene in the movie, aside from maybe the ending if you stretch the definition of ‘gory’), it’s not enough to really boost the movie up.
I first saw this when I was much younger, and I got bored with it. I was a kid, though, and I don’t think most kids who were born in the early 1990’s could have sat through this movie without becoming restless. I’m 26 now, though, and guess what? I still became quite bored quite quickly. A few okay things happened, but this film took it’s time and I just don’t see it as worth it.
Obviously I’m in the minority, as the film is of course considered a French classic. Diabolique is a lot better, though, and I think the suspense there outdoes the somewhat tiring drama of this movie, face-removal scene or no.