Tuesday, December 29, 2015
It Wasn't Exactly "Les Yeux Sans Visage," But....................
For those who did not take French--and remember, only the smart kids took French-- this translates into "Eyes Without A Face, which is a 1960 French film, directed by Georges Franju.. Some of us, who grew up in the Metropolitan area, were exposed to it at too early an age, and missed its poetry and artistry. Some of you may recall that, during the 1960s, there was a period when Channel 9, the city's lowest rated station then, would show a reconstituted, dubbed and retitled version of it, called "The Horror Chamber Of Dr. Faustus." My first sense of confusion came the first time I saw it, when I realized the title had nothing to do with anything. And, as a then unsophisticated kid, was pretty disappointed about it.
It wasn't until several years ago, seeing the film as an adult, at the Film Forum, that I realized what a haunting, poetic work of art it was. But not, without its moments of camp--and a bit of lesbianism, which went over my head, years before--as shall be revealed.
Pierre Brasseur plays Dr. Genessier, a noted surgeon--until he gets into a car accident, where his daughter, Christiane (brilliantly played by Edith Scob), is horribly disfigured in her face. And she had been a beauty, in that French ingenue, borrowed-from-Audrey-Hepburn style.
The doctor is understandably riddled with guilt, and determines that he will make his daughter lovely again through skin graft surgery. But he needs volunteers, or, in this case, victims. So--get this--he makes the daughter wear a mask, making her look like a female Phantom Of the Opera, and he sends out his attractive lab assistant Louise, played by Alida Valli--yes, dears THE "Valli" from the Forties--to do lesbian pick ups on young girls, who are lured back to the doctor's to become surgical victims. And if they should die????????? Too bad; they're dumped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The pick up scenes are unintentionally humorous, because the viewer knows when they are going to come. As soon as Louise sets out in her car, a tinkling little theme is struck up on the soundtrack, and she is off and running. Who knew lesbianism had humor??????? It does here, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The film has a tragic climax, but visually beautiful ending. Christiane reaches a point where she becomes disenchanted with what her father is doing, and being imprisoned in a physical, as well as psychological isolation. So, she sets one of the potential victims free, stabs Louise in the neck, and turns her father's killer dogs on him. Strong resolve, that Christiane. Then she walks into a poetic image of birds flying around her, telling the viewer she is done with all this, and telling me that, with that mask, and what she knows about skin care, she will establish the House Of Christiane, in Paris. She will be her own Estee Lauder.
Girls, I am telling you, has any horror film had such a positive message???? I cannot recall when. But, what has all this to do with me?????????. I will tell you, dolls, right now.
I had cancer surgery, below my left eyebrow.
Now, first let me say, there is no word I dread more than cancer. It killed my maternal uncle, at 51, and my mother, years later, at 64. But both cases were lung cancer, and both were heavy smokers. Nevertheless, especially in the face of my mother's death, which has haunted me the rest of my life, I came to fear cancer. I recall a time I almost walked out on Meryl Streep's film, "One True Thing," because it hit too close to home. To this day, whenever I see "Sweeney Todd," I sob copiously on the triplet "Johanna," when the song gets to the lyric "If only angels could prevail, we'd be the way we were." That is because my mother was dying when I first saw the show, back in 1979, and I simply wanted everything to go back to the way it was before she got sick. And now, when I hear it, I am reminded of that awful time.
So, on November 11, when the dermatologist took some tissue for a biopsy, I thought nothing of it. When he called a week later, and mentioned cancer, I was riddled with fear. But inside, I felt stoic. I felt, with my background, it was inevitable. I also labored under the fear, once it is present in your body, cancer comes back to bite, until it gets you.
On December 8 (a day of good omen, because it was the Feast Of The Immaculate Conception, and the 61st Anniversary of the Broadway opening of "The Bad Seed,") I had the procedure. They covered my face, localized me, and, of course I kept my eyes shut. So, while undergoing this, I thought of myself as Christiane in "Eyes Without A Face." You know me!!!!!!!! It just came to me, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The only really bad thing about the experience--and neither I, nor my beloved, were really prepared for this--was the waiting. We were there eight hours. Understandably, you have to wait for the lab results to come back negative, once they have removed skin. But what was grueling was waiting on the slab to get things done, because Tuesday was the only day for Mohs Surgery, and others were being worked on simultaneously. And I am just too Anna Wintour, darlings. When it comes to surgery, I do not like to share. It is all about me.
Someone once told me if one has to get cancer, skin cancer is the best to get, as it is so easy to treat. And Fran Drescher beat an even worse form of the disease, which she recorded in her book, "Cancer, Schmancer."
I feel lucky to be able to discuss this with you all.
And I am thankful Valli did not come to pick me up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!