The style and manner of Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face seems stolen from the cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. Its pace, its acting, even the abruptness of its ending all seem to create a reflection of movies past. Even so, the film is a complete original and I’m sure that at one point in time, it was a genuine shocker. Violence is shown on the screen but not in a particularly dramatic way. The cold calm of the moments when knives pierce skin actually elevates the film to a more disturbing level. One scene in particular, where a doctor removes the skin of a woman’s face, is still rather grotesque and strikingly bold for such a dated film. In that way, Eyes is not a replica of the past but a step into the future. When I think back to Hitchcock’s shower scene in Psycho, I think of how the music bursts out loudly and how the editing avoids showing us the knife actually penetrating the skin. The technique of Franju’s operation scene is completely different. The blade moves along the skin in complete silence and we see its full circulation around the face.
Written August 2, 2012