Archive for the ‘Foreign’ Category

House biteHave you ever had a friend bite you in the butt? How about the floating head of a friend? Nobuhiko Ôbayashi put together such a mish mash of crazy styles and psychedelic visual assaults in his 1977 movie House (Hausu), that it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and yet like too many things I’ve seen before smashed together into something, well frankly, really weird.House vortex It reminded me of a combination of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the television series The Monkeys, Hello, Dolly!, The Sound of Music, and Japanese anime with some Disney fairy princess stuff thrown in for good measure. Chuck Stephens calls it “a maelstrom of cinekinetic visual ingenuity.” That’s a mouthful that basically means it’s a storm of constantly moving images and color.

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House headHouse is supposed to be a horror movie, and yeah there are some elements of horror (blood spewing from the picture of the cat, decapitated talking heads, bodily dismemberment, and such), but it really has too much “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” to be the least bit scary to me. According to Stephens, Obayashi’s eleven-year-old daughter provided a lot of ideas for the movie, and that explains a lot. House group

Stephens says the film is more about “the telling than the tale,” and I can see that because the story itself is kind of hard to follow. I realize that as Cherry explains, horror movies have a lot to say about the culture and time they were made (210), and I don’t know that much about Japanese culture, especially in the 1970’s, but this movie is just (to use the vernacular of the time) “way too far out there man.”  

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looking upGeorges Franju‘s Les Yeux Sans Visage or Eyes Without a Face is a poetry of images, disturbing images, yes, but also beautiful images. Eyes, of course are everywhere.

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Obsesses eyes, frightened eyes, hopeful eyes, wary eyes, longing eyes, searching eyes, blank eyes, dead eyes, wondering eyes. Edith Scob‘s eyes are the most impressive and expressive because for most of the movie that is all she has to emote with as Christiane Génessier the faceless woman behind the mask.

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Carol Clover points out that, like folk-tales, horror films have a predictable cast of characters, namely the victim, the monster, and the hero (12), but in modern horror films, enabled by the rise of feminism, often the victim and hero combine together to form what Clover calls “the female victim-hero” (4). Clover also discusses the story of Carrie White from the film Carrie based on the novel by Stephen King in which, throughout the story, Carrie takes on all three roles. I suggest that Christiane does the same in this film.

eyes3 In the beginning of the movie Christiane is presented as a victim trapped in her ivory tower by her controlling father and his over-loyal assistant. She is treated more like a doll than a person, and she resembles a doll as well. eyeswithoutaface390Her mannerisms come across as very doll-like. When the mask is on, she does not speak throughout the first part of the movie. When she sneaks out of her room and hides in the garage watching her father and his assistant come out of the hidden passageway, the audience wonders what she will discover and what she will do about it.

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However, her actions upon finding the girl strapped to the operating table reveal that she was aware of the room and it’s purpose all along, framing her as, if not accessory to the actions taken there, at least complacent in them, revealing a monstrous nature along with her monstrous face. The mask takes on a more sinister feel reminding one of other silent, masked monsters.

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WHEN-DOVES-FLYAfter the new skin graft does not take, and she returns to her mask, she once again takes on the role of victim asking the assistant to kill her using the drugs that her father uses to put down the dogs that he experiments on. Finally, she turns into “a monstrous hero” (4) when she kills the assistant imagesCAOOP1ISand sets free the next girl scheduled for mutilation as well as the dogs, who ironically tear off the face of the doctor.

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 But as she wanders off into the night, one wonders what she will become next.

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According to Laura Mulvey, “The cinema offers a number of pleasures. One is scopohilia” (2). In Michael Powell‘s Peeping Tom deals directly with the issue of scopophilia in the case of Mark Lewis, a young man who was abused as a child by a controlling father preoccupied with “the reaction of the nervous system to fear.” Although Mark’s scopophilia seems to be less about sex and more about his desire to please his dead father, Mulvey’s article can be useful in analysing many elements of this movie. Mulvey talks about the “traditional exhibitionist role” of women (4) and the male’s unconscious desire to punish her because she represents castration by her lack of penis (5). She also discusses the controlling male gaze (2) and women as property (5). These point are relevant in several ways. PEEPINGTOM24First, Mark controls the gaze of the audience when he takes control of the camera and we see what he sees. Second, the three women that he chooses to film are all performers (exhibitionists) of a sort. Third, by filming these women he takes possession of them and by killing them he seals that possession as permanent, literally catching their last moments of life. Forth, the method of death, the torment at the time of death, can be seen as a punishment for attracting his gaze to begin with.

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I don’t particularly agree with this analysis. I think Mark’s story is more about missed love. First from his father and then from the girl downstairs that he discovered just a little too late. And it would seem that the director agrees with me. According to Carol Clover, Micheal Powell is quoted as saying that the movie was “a film of compassion, of observation, and of memory…a very tender film” (177).peepingtom3

It is the ghost story, that moves Diabolique into the realm of horror movie. What starts out as a drama about two women planning the murder of their common abuser turns to a psychological thriller when the dead man’s body disappears. Brigid Cherry in Horror says that in psychological films “modes of effect can be created through suggestion, the use of lighting, sound effects and music” (80). In Diabolique,  Henri-Georges Clouzot  uses these techniques to create uncertainty and uneasiness in his audience. LesDiaboliquesImage

Is Michel really dead? He sure looked dead, but then what happened to the body? Is someone setting the girls up for blackmail? Is someone just messing with them? About the time when the girls union falls apart and Nicole leaves the school, I had figured it out. I know I have seen a similar movie, but can’t remember now what it was.  It is something worthy of Hitchcock. If I had not caught on to the betrayal diaboliqueI would have felt more of the emotions that Clouzot was trying to evoke from his audience. I understand why he added the warning not to give away the secret to others who had not seen the movie and so for the sake of anyone reading this that has not seen it, I will not give it away here. The ghostly twist at the end I did not see coming.