tue 13/04/2021

DVD: Eyes Without a Face | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Eyes Without a Face

DVD: Eyes Without a Face

Georges Franju’s 1960 auteur horror feature remains fresh and still disturbs

Edith Scob as Christiane in 'Eyes Without a Face': radiant and otherworldly

A now-canonical film like Eyes Without a Face has the potential to become over familiar. What was once shocking could now seem quotidian. Freshness is a quality which can be blunted. Yet seeing Georges Franju’s 1960 film anew reveals it as still heady, and still unlike any other film.

A now-canonical film like Eyes Without a Face has the potential to become over familiar. What was once shocking could now seem quotidian. Freshness is a quality which can be blunted. Yet seeing Georges Franju’s 1960 film anew reveals it as still heady, and still unlike any other film.

Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage) may have given cinema one of its most enduring images with Edith Scob’s mask and lent its title to the Billy Idol song, but it remains potent. The story of Dr Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) seeking to give his disfigured daughter Christiane (Scob) a new face with the help of his assistant Louise (Alida Valli) is rendered with a touch alternating between light and heavy handed – so when the shocks come, they are truly shocking. Scob, whose real face is not seen, is radiant and otherworldly. There are hints of Hitchcock – the film’s writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac wrote the novel adapted as Vertigo – and, more explicitly, Louis Feuillade. But, in turn, this French film had most of its impact on continental European cinema: Mario Bava and Jésus Franco drew from it. Dario Argento’s Susperia owes Eyes Without a Face a clear debt.

This new dual format DVD/Blu-ray edition from the BFI looks wonderful. The black and white film and its soundtrack sparkle. Maurice Jarre’s music sounds wonderfully immediate. Beyond the film itself, everything else in the package is different to the US Criterion Collection edition. The booklet features six separate essays and the dense commentary track by film scholar Tim Lucas says more than surely anyone could have thought possible about the film. The other extras include Les fleurs maladives de Georges Franju, a slight 2009 French TV documentary on Franju which features Scob, mentions few of his other films and doesn't even show any images of the director. There is also a separate, recent interview with Scob.

Two Franju shorts are also seen: the oddly stilted Monsieur et Madame Curie (1953) and the superb La premiere nuit (1958), in which the camera tails a young boy stranded overnight in the Paris Metro. Despite this wealth of treats, thoughts always return to the atmospheric, disturbing and powerful Eyes Without a Face.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

When the shocks come, they are truly shocking

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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