GOODNIGHT, MOMMY: Faceless Films

“I’m all out of hope / One more bad break could bring a fall / When I’m far from home Don’t call me on the phone / To tell me you’re alone.”

Vanguard Bloggers Leslie and Sian covered the perils of recuperating in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and engendered a healthy fear of children in us all. But there’s one aspect of Goodnight, Mommy I’d like to cover: Facelessness.

“Les Yeus Sans Visage / Eyes Without A Face”

Eyes Without A Face / Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960)

When Christiane (Edith Scob) is disfigured in a car accident,  her father, the brilliant surgeon Dr. Génessier, decides the only thing he can do is kidnap women, surgically remove their faces and attempt them to graft them onto hers. And the only thing he can do with young women after the attempts inevitably fail, is to feed their corpses to his poor, surgically experimented on dogs. But just because it’s mad science love, doesn’t mean it’s not love. Director Georges Franju went on to make a French television series called, L’Homme Sans Visage (1976) but Billy Idol never wrote a sensitive song about that, unfortunately.

“Got no human grace / You’re eyes without a face”

The Face Of Another (1966)

Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) has also been disfigured, but instead of a car crash, he was injured in a laboratory accident. And instead of investing in plastic surgery, Okuyama receives treatment from a psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) who gives him a mask modeled on the face of another man. Okuyama becomes increasingly violent, testing his wife’s faithfulness, assaulting another woman and ultimately killing his doctor in a faceless crowd. Within this story, there is another of a young woman (Miki Irie) whose face was injured in the Nagasaki bombing. Plus, Kobo Abe wrote both the novel the film’s based on and its screenplay.

“I spend so much time/ Believing all the liesTo keep the dream alive / Now it makes me sad”

The Skin I Live In / La Piel Que Habito (2011)

Plastic surgeon Dr. Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) has invented a revolutionary artificial skin that resists damage but mimics human skin. As is the way with mad scientists, when his colleagues disapprove of his experiments on humans, he continues his work despite having no access to official facilities for it. And like many mad scientists–and his colleague Dr. Génessier–Dr. Ledgard has a vast estate that is plenty secluded enough to continue his work. Here he continues it on poor Vera (Elena Anaya), a woman who lives in his house and who has dreams from Dr. Ledgard’s past and who resembles Dr. Ledgard’s late wife.

“Reading murder books trying to stay hip / I’m thinking of you
you’re out there so / Say your prayers.”

Onibaba (1964)

After a man named Kichi is forced to serve in a local lord’s army, his mother (Nobuko Otawa) and his wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) lose their livelihood. It’s impossible to farm with a civil war raging and with the loss of Kichi’s help. Instead, they survive in an overgrown paddy by killing soldiers, stripping the bodies and trading the weapons and armor for food. The younger woman starts sneaking out to see Kichi’s friend Hachi (Kei Sato), who has returned from the war, when she thinks her mother-in-law is asleep. One night, the older woman finds a demon mask on a dead samurai’s face. She wears it to terrify her daughter-in-law back into her house, but the mask fuses to her face.

“Such a human waste / You’re eyes without a face

And now it’s getting worse”

GOODNIGHT MOMMY screening times:

Monday, Sept 8th, 7:00 PM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Wednesday, Sept 10th, 9:30 PM SCOTIABANK 14
Friday, Sept 12th, 3:00 PM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA

This post was originally published on the Toronto International Film Fe stival Vanguard Program Blog.

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