Archive for the ‘French’ Tag

Eyes Without a Face (1960) 31 Days of Horror   2 comments


Louise (Alida Valli) drives down a dark deserted road while eerie carnival music plays in the background. She pulls over, opens the trunk, drags a large package along the ground, and throws it into the river. In the next scene, Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) speaks at a surgical conference on the transferring of body parts from one animal to another. Sounds great so far, right? I mean, you have to love a film that starts out with a body dump and a lecture on organ grafting. After his speech, the doctor heads to the morgue to identify his daughter, Christiane and the party really starts. Despondent and incredibly quiet, dad returns home to see…Christiane. Yeah, it’s that kind of film.


I remember having insult fights as a kid and saying dopey things like, “You should go to the store and buy a new face!” The writers of Eyes Without a Face take that to the next level. The French Dr. Mengele and his henchwoman Louise lure young girls to his country home and use them for spare parts. It’s pretty nasty.

Does this rag smell like chloroform?

Director Georges Franju, who made a name for himself filming horse slaughterhouses interspersed with children playing does creepy well. The film looks beautiful. Pierre Brasseur, as the not so good doctor, goes about his dirty business with a charmless, blank expression as if he understands the depths he has reached, but feels compelled to go deeper. Alida Valli also knows she is doing terrible things, but continues because of her loyalty to the doctor. The spooky prize in Eyes Without a Face goes to Edith Scob as Christiane.

A face? Pour moi?

Her face obscured for the majority of the film, she still manages to exude an alien je ne sais quoi. Christiane moves slowly and seems to float. Her dancer’s body stands erect despite her character’s tenuous grasp on reality. She too knows she’s part of something evil, but can only relate to the collection of dogs her father has collected to experiment on.

You understand me.

I was snake fascinated by Eyes Without a Face, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. The disturbing plot combined with the disturbing characters, and the disturbing surgical scenes make for a genuinely…you guessed it…disturbing film.

You want my what?

Moody circus music by Maurice Jarre (The Longest Day, Sundays and Cybele) added to the overall ghoulishness. As usual, I’m glad I saw Eyes Without a Face. I’ll remember it the way I remember the face of the odd guy I run into at the dry cleaners who I watch out of the corner of my eye in case the police ask me about him later. If you’re into that, you’ll love this movie. You might also like the short included on the Criterion DVD. Called Le Sang des Betes (Blood of the Beasts) it’s a documentary about French slaughterhouses. I managed about four minutes of random images before they started offing horses and I moved on with my life. Anyway, Les Yeux Sans Visage, as they say in Paris, is a film you’ll remember, but may wish to forget.


I wrote this for the 31 Days of Horror Challenge on
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I’m @echidabot on twitter.

October 7, 2014

Army of Shadows (1969)   5 comments

poster army

Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura), a prisoner of the Vichy French travels, in manacles, to a French POW camp. Stoic and confident, Gerbier says little and observes much. It’s clear from his demeanor and his treatment by the camp’s commandant that he’s more than a simple smuggler. After an audacious escape from Gestapo custody, Gerbier meets up with his comrades in the French Underground and we begin to understand his importance. We meet the members of Gerbier’s underground cell after his escape as they gather to assassinate the turncoat who ratted him out.


It’s a tense series of scenes in which a group of civilized men are forced by war to perform uncivilized acts. These acts and the missions they accomplish daily have formed the group into a de facto family, with Gerbier at its head. The men, along with Mathilde (Simone Signoret) work well together. They carry out their orders efficiently and without question. They’re accustomed to taking risks. Clandestine meetings, signals to their comrades, and smuggling supplies are the norm. A scene in which Mathilde smuggles a radio in her bag under some fruit reminded me of something Bob Crane would do in Hogan’s Heroes. That doesn’t mean the scenes were dull or ordinary. Insightful direction by Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Cercle Rouge, Bob Le Flambeur) keeps the pace brisk, but he knows when to linger on a scene or on a character’s face. We even get to see the characters relax a bit.

simone wave

When Gerbier goes to London via submarine with the leader of their organization to get funds and supplies, he tours the city with his friend. They even see a film. After a screening of Gone with the Wind, Luc (Paul Meurisse) says, “The war will be over for the French when they can see this wonderful movie.” It’s a small moment, but one I watched a few times because it said so much.
With its narration and onscreen date and location stamps, Army of Shadows feels like a documentary. Under the guise of a procedural, a story takes shape. The story Melville presents is one of suspense, bravery, sacrifice, and love. The Resistance members risk everything to save their country from evil. They respect and even love each other and go to great lengths to protect one another. That sounds heavy and ponderous, but it’s not. Melville lets us know enough about the characters to care about them so when they face danger, we feel it. Army of Shadows is an account of one group of resistance fighters and how they interact. It’s a patriotic WWII film. It’s an action movie with some real weight. Joseph Kessel wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay with Melville. The story has enough twists to make it interesting and the acting is superb. I had never seen Lino Ventura before this film. He was a perfect choice. His quiet authority gave him the look of a natural leader. Simone Signoret is always wonderful and I wish Jean-Pierre Cassel had a bigger part. Eric DeMarsan’s music fit. The jangly piano he added to a few scenes gave the music a crazy quality I liked. This film kept me on the edge of my seat. After seeing Army of Shadows, I look forward to seeing Melville’s other films.


I wrote this for Tyson Carter’s wonderful film blog and his Recommended By blogathon. Really fun idea, Tyson! Jay from , a cool blog mostly, but not entirely devoted to James Bond musings and music, recommended Army of Shadows and the rest of Jean-Pierre Melville’s films to me and I’m glad he did. Thanks, Jay! Great stuff!
Tyson is also on twitter @Tysoncarter as is Jay @007hertzrumble and me @echidnabot

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