Tuesday’s Overlooked: Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)

Up until recently the only thing I knew about this title (Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage, in France) was that it was a Billy Idol song:

 

Then I was watching TCM and saw guest programmer Anthony Bourdain talking about the film and thought – what the heck, a French horror film, co-starring Alida Valli. Can’t be too bad. I had no idea of what was in store …

SYNOPSIS (from the Criterion Collection):

Secluded in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured face—but at a horrifying price. At once ghastly and lyrical, Eyes Without a Face is a true rarity of horror cinema and has influenced countless films.

That about sums it up. Check out this (rather long) trailer to get a better sense of where the film is going:

This film (directed by Georges Franju) is “horrific” in the truest spirit of the word. Not like the modern-day slash and thrash that we often associate with the genre, this film is disturbing and even oddly romantic in places.
In addition, it is beautifully shot in an “Expressionist-lite” black and white, with many scenes evoking sharp, contrasting shadows and light.

Originally released in France in 1959, the film originally hit our shores in 1962, was dubbed and given a new title: The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus; in addition, it was double-billed with The Manster, a Japanese horror film.

Currently, Eyes Without a Face is available on DVD for your enjoyment 🙂

iluvcinema Selects: Ne les dis à personne/Tell No One (2006)

Ne les dis à personne (Tell No One) could have easily been an entry to the ‘Overlooked’ series I take part in, but alas, it is my latest video recommendation (Note: I have previously referred to this film a few times here on this blog).

For many of your out in the blog-o-sphere, you may be familiar with this film if only for the fact that Ben Affleck has been tipped to direct the English-language version. But why wait until 2014 (according to the IMDB) when you can catch the French original now.

Based on a novel from American crime author Harlan Coben, Tell No One is a taut, gripping suspense thriller which stars François Cluzot as Alex, a grief-stricken man who, several years after his wife’s (Marie-Josée Croze) murder, now finds himself the chief suspect of a double murder. Add to this an email Alex receives which reveals a new, mysterious layer to his wife’s death and …

… that is about all I will say about the film; the less you know, the better. There are so many unexpected developments that I do not want to spoil a single thing for you, if you decide to accept the mission I have laid before you.

Tell No One is directed and co-written by actor Guillaume Canet and co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas.


AWARDS AND RECOGNITION

Tell No One was awarded four César Awards in 2007: Best Director for Guillaume Canet, Best Actor (François Cluzet), Best Editing and Best Music Written for a Film (Original Score).

The First Twelve Minutes of “Sound of My Voice”

Check out the first 12 minutes of the Fox Searchlight feature Sound of My Voice:

Here is the official line for the film:

Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a couple and documentary filmmaking team, infiltrate a mysterious group led by an enigmatic young woman named Maggie (Brit Marling). Intent on exposing her as a charlatan and freeing the followers from her grip, Peter and Lorna start to question their objective and each other and they unravel the secrets of Maggie’s underworld.

The film is directed by Zal Batmanglij and co-written by Batmanglij and featured actress Brit Marling.

After making the film festival circuit in 2011 (a premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and as part of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival), Sound of My Voice is scheduled for release in cinemas on April 27th.

© Fox Searchlight Pictures

What do you think of the opening? Is this something that you would consider seeing?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) directed by David Fincher

On Christmas Eve, a friend and me decided to go to the movies and catch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Before I get into my reaction, let me state for the fact: my relationship with this film can be described as rather layered at best. First let’s mention the book – at present, I am only a partially through it. But I do have every intention to finish reading this and the other two books of the Millennium trilogy. I only started reading the book after so many people recommended it. Prior to that I had no intention of reading the series.

But I was well aware of the popularity of the novel and its Hollywood adaptation; in fact this is the second cinematic incarnation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I have previously seen the Swedish three-part film series – well most of it anyway. While I liked the first two installments, I gave up about 30 minutes into the third film.

So you can imagine my trepidation in watching this glossy, Hollywood-stylized version of such dark source material. In general I am not a fan of these Hollywood “re-imaginings” of already established foreign films. Ultimately, my fear was that this big-budget Tattoo would be sanitized and cleansed of some of the source material’s (and Swedish film version’s) ‘grittier’ aspects.

As I walked out of the theater, all those concerns had vanished. I never should have doubted Mr. Fincher. In the end, I personally feel like this version was superior to its Swedish counterpart.

The head of the once-powerful industrialist Vanger family (Christopher Plummer) recruits the recently disgraced co-publisher of Millennium magazine Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig). Blomqvist’s assignment is to investigate a 40-year old mystery surrounding the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, Harriet. During the course of his investigation, Blomqvist enlists the services of asocial hacker/private investigator/wunderkid Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who he has a somewhat loose association with – she was the person who investigated (often through not-so-legal means) Blomqvist for his current assignment. Together, they begin to piece together just what happened all those years ago. Will they ‘solve’ the riddle before it is too late?

I think the narrative is good, in fact, I think that it is almost indestructible. The mystery and eventually piecing together of all the disparate elements are very thrilling and you are left on the edge of your seat, wondering what is behind it all. The Swedish version did a good job in telling the story, but I felt as if the quality steadily declined. In contrast, David Fincher (and screenwriter Steve Zaillian) exceeded my expectations in capturing the spirit of the text and at keeping the story moving. And in spite of the glossiness of the production, I was satisfied to see that some of the tougher elements as were described in the text were pretty much preserved in the film.

That said, as has been pointed out to me by many book readers (who completed the book), by the time we reach the end of the film, key plot elements were changed in the Swedish version; the Hollywood version stayed truer to the Larsson text, although with some minor alterations.

Another aspect of the film that I was pleasantly surprised by was my reaction to the soundtrack; an awesome opening sequence revealed that Trent Reznor of Nine in Nails composed the musical score. When I saw his name appear, I must admit that not being a fan of NIN, I was a little less than enthusiastic. But for the second time in this screening, I was proved wrong; the musical accompaniment matched the pace and the tone of the film very well. This seems to be part of a greater trend in Hollywood – the replacement of ‘traditional orchestral scores for modern, edgier music.

The casting was absolutely superb. Every character was just as I imagined them to be while reading the book. Along with the casting you have the acting, all of which also hit the mark. Along with the principle characters, I would like to note the performances of Robin Wright and Stellan Skarsgård.

Lastly, Jeff Cronenweth wonderfully photographs the desolate and sombre Swedish landscape.

Now, for the not-so-good news. One reservation I have with the film is – the dreaded clock-watching! At almost 3-hrs, it is a rather long film and I have to admit as I got towards the film’s final 45 minutes, I sat there thinking, “they could have tightened this up a bit.

The second thing I wanted to point out is the matter of the film’s release date. Of course this has nothing to do with the film proper, but I think it was an odd choice to release such a downer of a film around ye merry ole holidays. Looking at the box office receipts for the opening weekend, confirms that movie audiences probably thought the exact same thing. I am certain, however, that over the course of Tattoo’s cinema run, the receipts will pick up.

These criticisms aside, I ended up liking this film a lot more than I had anticipated.

I look forward to finishing the books and catching the second and third parts of the film franchise.

 

Short but Sweet Review ….

1976’s Obsession – an “homage” to Vertigo.

Simply put, not so much; in my opinion not so much an homage as a rip … with a few changes. And the “twist reveal” in the middle was kind of a let down. In addition I was kind of creeped out with meeting and subsequent actions of his wife’s double. More to come later …..