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The Independent Culture
The most disturbing thing about Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face isn't the notorious plastic surgery sequence, though watching someone's skin being peeled off whole certainly is no laughing matter. No, the most truly disturbing image afforded by this most perverse of horror fare is the cool, classical, snow-white mask worn by Christiane (Edith Scob, right), the disfigured daughter of the demented doc (Pierre Brasseur) who sets the nightmare plot in motion.

The mask is meant to hide Christiane's ruined visage, which it does, and more: despite following the contours of the face, it blots out any resemblance to the human. Instead there's this creepy, frozen perfection that age, sun and wind will never touch. Which is to say, what Christiane look likes is a star. And an old-fashioned star too; a Garbo, Dietrich or a Crawford, icons whose alabaster countenances already appear assembled and eerily impervious to the ravages of idiot time (though idiot time amply refutes such a notion, on celluloid the illusion remains).

And stars, like Christiane, are monsters of a sort, and can be created, if not with a scapel - though it's been known (consider Danny Kaye's nose job) - then with mug shots, posters, stills and other visual representations that fixate on faces usually seen 60ft high and mighty.

In fact, our heroine/victim's mask bears more than a passing resemblance to co-star Alida Valli's own features, at least at their peak. By Eyes Without a Face, the bloom is off and the face a trifle blurry, a fate that will never visit Christiane, whose tragedy, like all goddesses, is to be artificial, mysterious and stellar: an object of infinite and empty contemplation.

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