Close Up

2 April 2016: Take Two: Eyes Without a Face / The Skin I Live in

Eyes Without a Face
Georges Franju
1960 | 86 min | B/W | 35mm

At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance – at a horrifying price. Eyes Without a Face, directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here – of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty – that once seen are never forgotten.

The Skin I Live in
Pedro Almodóvar
2011 | 115 min | Colour | Digital

"Based on Thierry Jonquet’s 1995 novel Tarantula, [The Skin I Live in] can be read as a work of perfect unity between its filmmaker’s MO and its fabulous premise. Afflicted by grief over the death of his wife and filled with rage over the rape of his psychically frail daughter – emotions that become perilously conflated as he plots his revenge – Toledo plastic surgeon and mad scientist Robert Ledgard sequesters an unwitting subject in his country home’s high-tech gothic laboratory and sets out to see if the interior self can be redetermined through the complete transformation of the exterior.

An uneasy forecast of looming advances in posthuman sciences, an extravagant extrapolation of Eyes Without a Face, and a fresh opportunity for Almodóvar to fix his unapologetically (queer) male gaze on more immaculate female flesh, The Skin I Live in embodies a rather studied sort of perversion that nonetheless resonates with Almodóvar’s evolving concerns in interesting ways. It returns to the family as a source of torment, consolation, and self-knowledge; it wrestles with anxieties about aging; it depicts the persistence of religious thinking in an increasingly secular world; and its most significant twist speaks to fantasies about gender appropriation and its pros and cons." – Film Comment