E IS FOR EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960) – dir. Georges Franju
Eyes without a Face is both a haunting fairy tale and a poetic nightmare, that has influenced multiple films in the 53 years since its release. The second feature film by archivist and co-founder of Cinematheque Française, George Franju, tells the story of a prominent doctor whose guilt for disfiguring his own daughter in a car crash leads him to steal other girls faces, hoping to restore Christiane to her former beauty. He is helped by his loyal assistant Louise (Alida Valli), a former recipient of one of his successful yet experimental face lifts, dragging her into the pit of moral corruption he has already carved out for himself.
The film is shot by Eugen Schüfftan (The Hustler, Port of Shadows) who’s elegant yet simple imagery compliments the stark A lines and high collars of Hubert de Givenchy’s gowns (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade). Thus attired, Christiane is a bird in a gilded cage and the princess in the tower of this tale. Beautifully played by Edith Scob, she wanders through the mansion, wearing an expressionless mask barely veiling her anguish, looking like the apparition of a china doll.
Maurice Jarre provides a sinister yet jaunty score suggestive of a carnival you’d be relieved to escape, which is well dispersed amid the sounds of dogs and crows dropping in their calls of ill Omens. For all its sinister elegance, Eyes Without a Face does not shy away from the realities of the doctor’s experiments, particularly with the striking scene in which he removes the face of one of his victims.
One of my favourite British films, East is East, is a family comedy-drama set in 1970’s Salford, Manchester. Featuring a strong cast, the movie is centred around a mixed-race household, headed by a traditional Pakistani Muslim man, played by legendary Indian actor Om Puri; his English wife played by Linda Bassett and their seven children, one of whom is played by a young Jimi Mistri.
Apart from being very funny, the movie also touches on socio-political issues, religion, race, gender, cultural identity and the complications and adversities of life in a multi-cultural community. East is East will go down as a timeless British classic. Its well worth the watch!