Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Face of Another (1966, Hiroshi Teshigahara)

As with Teshigahara's masterpiece Woman in the Dunes, it'll take more than one viewing for me to be able to satisfactorily explain this film's effect on me. Based on the synopsis, I expected this to be a mood piece like Eyes Without a Face, but it comes across more as a Tod Browning/Lon Chaney film with added dissonance (Takemitsu rules!). From the opening moments, it's clear that the unseen incident that caused the protagonist's disfigurement cut him more deeply than any cosmetic procedure could ever hope to cure, and part of the charge of the final scenes is how inevitable they all were from the get-go. I also found the story's use of the other disfigured woman to be interesting, especially given how sharply she contrasts with the protagonist- his injury was partly his fault while hers was, we gather, due to the A-bomb; likewise, he goes to great lengths to cover his face, while the most she does is comb her hair down over it, and so on. I'd complain about the over-literariness of the idea of the conflict between our antihero and his new face if I thought Teshigahara and writer Kobo Abe meant it to be taken at face value, but it goes deeper than that, to issues of identity and the responsibility that comes with it. And what to make of the hallucinatory mise-en-scene in the director's office? Rating: ***1/2.

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