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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
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June 21, 2007
At the time of its American release, Eyes Without a Face was cut, dubbed, renamed The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, and featured in a double bill with The Manster (1962). How exactly did an arthouse French film end up being paired with a campy American one involving a two-headed monster? They are both "horror" films, but each one is so intensely different from the other that the similarities end there. Moviegoers, even back then, were surely disappointed when they realized that the former was anything but what its title indicated.

The thing is, Eyes Without a Face is not the sort of horror film one would expect from the late 1950s (the film was first released, under its original French title Les Yeux sans Visage, in 1960). It is director George Franju's visual aesthetic and approach to the subject matter that turns the film into something far more intriguing than your run-of-the-mill slasher flick. In the nearly half a century since Franju tackled Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's screenplay, the topic of an obsessive doctor that abducts young women to remove their faces has scarcely been treated with such refinement. David Kalat says it best in his essay for the Criterion Collection's re-issue of the film: "Georges Franju deftly balances fantasy and realism, clinical detachment and operatic emotion, beauty, and pain, all presided over by Edith Scob's haunting, haunted eyes."

Indeed, beneath the surface of Eyes Without a Face, beneath all its horror and ghastliness, there is a sense of poetry that every now and then breathes a surprising touch of gentleness and lyricism into it. It is this element that makes Franju's masterpiece one of the most understated and elegant horror films I've seen; moreover, it wouldn't be foolish to say that Eyes Without a Face is a film full of contrasts, given that it creates a world of its own which juxtaposes the gruesome (the face transplant scene) with the tender (the liberation of the animals). Franju once referred to it as "an anguish film," going on to elaborate that "it's a quieter mood than horror, something more subjacent, more internal, more penetrating. It's horror in homeopathic doses."

It's a poem masquerading as a hideous one, but there's beauty to be found, however twisted: because whilst Eyes Without a Face presents us with a truly creepy concept, it nevertheless manages to find the right balance between the macabre and the lyrical, giving us an altogether different angle from which to see things.

Eugene Schuftan's cinematography bathes the film with an expressionistically eerie look; there is a fine balance between the light and the dark, resulting in a work of consummate visual precision that has influenced untold scores of filmmakers like Tim Burton and David Lynch. The impact of the film is further weighted by Maurice Jarre's score, which is at times carnival-esque (giving the film an aura of circus-like atmosphere, as though it could be Christiane's destiny), and others downright nostalgic. The screenplay, co-written by Boileau and Narcejac (the duo behind the similarly classic Diabolique and Vertigo) is incredible, and faced with the challenge of making a solid film out of it, Franju succeeded. One of the vital facets of the film is the way the director chooses to tell the story, employing a deliberate pace that is slow but ever-absorbing. Even though the film is not particularly tense by today's standards it is engrossing nonetheless, and there are some scenes that, even nowadays, are a tad shocking.

There is one particular scene which really does stand out, and it is the moment in which we see Christiane, the disfigured daughter of Dr. Faustus, with her oddly sinister plastic mask on for the very first time. It is such a heartbreaking moment, partly because we'd been expecting it with such great anxiety and partly because Jarre's score is simply perfect and on point. The scene is drenched in an odd poignancy, and it is precisely there that we grasp the sense of loss and suffering that constantly surrounds Christiane. The camera focuses on her mask, but above all, it observes her eyes with great delicacy. In them, we see sadness reflected.

Amidst all its horror-oriented insanity, Eyes Without a Face is above all the tale of an ugly duckling; here we have a young girl who, after having her visage horribly disfigured in a car accident, finds herself no longer accepting herself for what she is - externally, that is. Her father, having tried twice to restore her face - and failed - at the end gets his well-deserved punishment, in one of the most macabre and somewhat touching finales of French cinema. Eyes Without a Face is a film that bewitches from the very start, a thought-provoking work of many dimensions and themes whose rare power cannot be denied; it really does haunt like no other.

--
Pabs Hernandez
A staff writer for LAS, Pablo Hernandez keeps up pretty well with the ever-changing 'indie scene' from his home in Madrid, Spain.

See other articles by Pabs Hernandez.

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