I managed to make it out to see the wondrous French film Eyes Without a Face at a 9:15pm showing at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland (More on that later) and I was very happy that I did. I've seen the film before, but seeing it on the big screen was a real treat and well worth being a little tired the next day! Looking back on it, the film really isn't solely a horror film. I see it as more of a sad drama with some horrific elements.
We have Docteur Génessier who is trying to make things right after causing a terrible accident that's disfigured his daughter, Christiane, leaving her with a disturbing, mangled face. With the help of his assistant Louise, the doctor kidnaps young women and removes their faces to transplant onto his daughter using a technique he's trying to perfect. Grim, indeed, for it seems like every attempt goes wrong, but the doctor's guilt drives him on.
The film is shot beautifully and the scenes take on various feelings from beautiful to nightmarish. And the sadness of the film weighs on you - almost physically. The doctor is awful - killing women to fix his daughter, but you understand what's driving him . His assistant does what he says without much thought about it because she longs to help him any way she can.
And poor Christiane is the saddest of all. She watches as these horrible things are done to other women to help her and has to watch as the efforts fail over time. Her new face fails and withers away forcing her back into the mask to cover her ruined visage - an expressionless, sad face with eyes that stare out at her small world sadly. And more sadness is added when she slips away to calls her fiancé so she can hear his voice again knowing that he thinks she's dead.
Georges Franju's direction paired with the fairy tale soundtrack of Maurice Jarre tops things of wonderfully. The music is slightly off and creates a dreamy, nightmare landscape when paired with beautiful shots of Christiane gliding around the house in her long coat and sad mask. And of course, Eugen Schüfftan's cinematography was at play here as well.
I can see this being a Criterion purchase in the future. I really love the film. If you have not seen it, check it out when you're in the mood for an atmospheric, sad, dark fairy tale.
ABOUT THE NEW PARKWAY THEATER:
I forgot how much I love the New Parkway Theater. They had shut down at one point and I was so sad. The theater was filled with sofas, comfy chairs, and a general eclectic mix of places to sit. Paired with their pizza, beer, and fresh popcorn, it was a GREAT night out. When they reopened in a new location, I kept thinking it was far away and didn't really think about it much. When I went last night, I realized that it was only 11 short minutes away and it still had the great mix of seating, the food and beer, and the FANTASTIC popcorn - served in a real bowl, not a paper one. The theater prides itself on cutting back on waste this way, being one of the "greenest" theaters in the Bay Area, And being able to have at home comfort sitting on a sofa, but still having the giant screen to view the film is a winning combination!