Thirtyframesasecond

January 10, 2010

Daybreakers (2009)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Wilson @ 7:12 pm
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Australia/USA

Directors: Michael Spierig/Peter Spierig

98 min

Two Hollywood studio executives overheard in discussion:

A: So if we don’t come up with any new and more importantly profitable ideas, we’re both looking at a one way trip to the welfare line.
B: Hmm, well you know what the kids love these days? VAMPIRES!
A: Vampires. I like it. But how do we come up with something different? The kids are all about Twilight these days.
B: Well let’s just take someone like the main guy from Twilight and introduce him to this dystopian America of the future where 95% of the world’s population and vampires and the remaining 5% of humans are dying out. Our guy’s a sympathetic vampire, someone we can root for. He doesn’t want to feed off humans, he wants to be human.
A: I’m listening. But dystopian? Sounds expensive.
B: We can film it in Australia for half the costs and take advantage of the tax breaks and government subsidies.
A: That’s more like it. But who should we have as our lead?
B: Brad? Leo?
A: With their salary bracket? No way. We need someone less pretty but who can pass as vulnerable and doe-eyed for the female demographic. But tough enough for the dudes. Someone like…..
B: Ethan Hawke!
A: Yes, he’s done that “doesn’t make sense” sci-fi bullshit in Gattaca and he’ll only cost [taps away at calculator] a tenth of what Brad or Leo would ask for. We need some cheap rent-a-bad guys to beef up the casting. I’m thinking….
B: Sam Neill as a nefarious businessman and Willem Dafoe as a vampire-turned-human?
A: Interesting. But wait, how would Dafoe become human?
B: Don’t worry about that. Kids’ll buy anything. Just spout some pseudo-scientific tosh and make it sound semi-credible.
A: I see. But how will the human race survive? The odds are pretty stacked against it, you have to admit.
B: Well, the vampires are ravenous, so when they bite the vampires-turned-human, they too become human. And give it enough time, the whole population becomes human again. And this means we can liberally unleash blood and violence to impress the dudes who think the movie’s too pussy so far.
A: Cool. So how does it end?
B: It doesn’t. We deliberately leave a really rubbish ending to ensure the inevitable sequel or four.
A: B….you know that sports car you’ve always dreamed of? Make a deposit on it. Because we’re about to make shitloads of $$$

December 12, 2008

Eyes Without a Face

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Wilson @ 12:28 am
Tags: , , , ,

France

Director: Georges Franju

88 min

Synopsis

Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists

Paris, the 1950s. Louise drives in the rain, then safely disposes of the corpse in the backseat of her car. At the same time, Dr Genessier gives a lecture about skin grafting and transplantation. The corpse is discovered, then Dr Genessier informs the police that it is his missing daughter, Christiane, who was disfigured in a car accident. Dr Genessier oversees Christiane’s ‘funeral’ but returns home where she is still alive, but disfigured. The corpse was a woman whose face Dr Genessier used for skin grafts. Dr Genessier promises to restore Christiane to her former beauty.

Louise then lures Edna, a young student to Dr Genessier’s home by promising a room, but she is given chloroform and then used for another experiment. This seems to work but the awakened Edna then falls to her death upon discovering what has happened. The graft soon deteriorates and becomes infected. Jacques, Christiane’s fiancĂ©, discovers that the police are looking for a woman with a pearl choker as their sole lead, which reminds him of Louise. The police ask a young thief, Paulette, to entrap Dr Genessier and Louise, though the police lose track of her at the clinic and Louise abducts her. On the verge of undergoing surgery, Dr Genessier is interrupted. At this point, Christiane murders Louise and Paulette escapes. Christiane releases Dr Genessier’s dogs, which maul him to death. Christiane then escapes into the night.

Review

Franju had spent approximately a decade making shorts and documentaries before embarking on a feature film directorial career. ‘Eyes Without a Face’ was only his second film, but is a remarkable dip into the horror genre, combining both the macabre and the poetic to stunning effect. The film initially received a muted response both in France and abroad, where the film was edited and audiences reacted negatively. It is only in recent decades that the film has been critically rehabilitated, perhaps because of the benefit of hindsight and that modern audiences are more comfortable with the more extreme elements of Franju’s film. It is now justifiably considered one of the most important and influential horrors of all time.

Franju sets the film up perfectly with the opening scene, packed with mystery and suspicion. Who is this mysterious woman with what seems to be a corpse in her backseat? This scene is meticulously constructed. Disposal is not easy for Louise and Franju ensures that he shows the audience just how difficult it is. Other scenes of a controversial nature are methodically shown, most notably the grafting scenes. Anyone who has seen Franju’s early documentary ‘Blood of the Beasts’, set in an abattoir, will be aware that Franju is not interested in holding back scenes of a visceral nature to mute the reaction of his audience. Franju shows Dr Genessier at work in vast detail; to show how painstaking his work is. The copious sweat dripping from his forehead during these operations show his desperation and determination. Franju also semi-humanises the doctor; he is aware of the pain and suffering he causes but he justifies his cause, although passing off a man’s dead daughter as his own, whose death he was responsible for, reminds us of his innate cruelty.

Franju’s documentary roots are also demonstrated in an intriguing scene during the mid-point of the film after the ultimately unsuccessful graft of Edna’s face into Christiane. To demonstrate this failure, Franju uses a montage of photographs, complete with voiceover, showing the rapid deterioration of the graft. This is a more successful means of doing this than through normal shooting and editing methods. Franju is more able to capture the day-by-day decline. Also of interest is how Franju initially shoots Christiane, keeping us in the dark about her current condition. We discover that she is not really dead but that Dr Genessier has testified that the corpse is his daughter. When we first meet Christiane, Franju shoots her from behind or subjectively, from her own point of view. Speaking to Louise, Franju moves his camera according to Louise’s movements. Only when Christiane puts on her mask does Franju then shoot her directly. He only reveals her true condition through Edna’s eyes when she is about to undergo her operation.

Music has an important role in the film, with Louise and Christiane appearing to have their own signature themes, courtesy of the famous composer Maurice Jarre. Louise’s night-time prowls for victims are accompanied by a jaunty tune but with an air of menace, which recalls the theme of ‘The Third Man’, which of course Alida Valli played a significant role. Christiane is soundtracked by a more optimistic theme. The first instance we hear the theme is immediately after Dr Genessier’s ominous return to the family home, which featured the barking of dogs and a slow and menacing ascent of the stairs. Its use is never more significant than in the breathtaking closing scene, when Christiane emerges from her ‘imprisonment’, leaving into the night with a dove in her hand, perhaps suggesting peace and an end to the drama and violence that accompanied her father’s attempts to restore her looks. This use of music drives the narrative and increases our understanding of both characters and their motivations.

1960 was also the year of two other controversial horror films; ‘Psycho’ and ‘Peeping Tom’. ‘Eyes Without a Face’ is just as innovative and intriguing as its contemporaries, and contributed equally to the development of the horror genre, most notably in terms of modern slasher films (John Carpenter noted the influence upon ‘Halloween’). More so than these films though, ‘Eyes Without a Face’ is a schizophrenic horror film, combining moments of lyrical beauty with moments of cruelty and fear. Thoughtful and subtle in its examination of Christiane’s condition and psychological state, capturing her frustration and desire to see an end to her father’s mission, Franju expertly uses Jarre’s score and his own creative methods of filming to produce a groundbreaking and near-perfect example of the genre.

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