Following Woman of the Dunes (Suna no onna) in 1964, Hiroshi Teshigahara continued his collaboration with avant-garde novelist/playwright Kobo Abe and experimental composer Toru Takemitsu for The Face of Another (Tanin no kao). Starring Tatsuya Nakadai (Yojimbo, Kagemusha) as a man "buried alive behind eyes without a face", the film addresses the illusive nature of identity and the agony of its absence. A man (Tatsuya Nakadai) facially disfigured in a laboratory fire persuades his doctor to fashion him a lifelike mask modeled on a complete stranger - totally different from his own face. Shortly after the mask is made, he successfully seduces his own wife (Machiko Kyo) but becomes angry at her falling for a handsome stranger. Worrying about his looks, and the way the mask seems to influence his identity, he begins to question everything.
Japan was always weird...
- The Face of Another review by Count Otto Black
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Firstly, ignore the synopsis, which was yet again written by someone who hasn't actually seen the film, and misses the point completely.
Secondly, if this sounds like the kind of movie you might want to see, check out Georges Franju's Surrealist masterpiece "Les Yeux Sans Visage" first, because this film rips off a great deal from it without being anywhere remotely near as good. Then watch this one if you're some kind of obsessive cinematic face transplant completist.
Thirdly... well, frankly, where do I start? By telling you that the "hero" spends almost half the film being so obnoxiously selfish that he makes "Green Lantern" look like "Forrest Gump", and the rest of it being maybe 10% nicer? By pointing out that in 1966, a doctor whose entire job consisted of replacing the lost body-parts of damaged people with realistic-looking prostheses probably wouldn't have considered supplying a rubber mask to a man with hideous facial scars so that he could leave his house without wrapping his head in bandages precisely equivalent to the fictional Baron Frankenstein's corpse-reanimating crime against God? By saying that mild mental retardation doesn't turn people into subhumans who have extra senses because they're animals?
I get that 50 years ago, Japan was such an intolerant society that if you had anything whatsoever wrong with you, you were literally a "monster", and this is a ham-fisted protest against such attitudes. But since it also states that physical injuries damage your soul, and any cosmetic alteration that makes you unaccountable to the laws of a repressive society automatically turns you into an amoral psychopath, I fail to see what point is really being made here. Cosmetic surgery is evil, possibly? I really don't know.
This is an ugly, mean-spirited, depressing film, and the random touches of pretentious but irrelevant Surrealism add nothing. Avoid.