Athens International Film Festival

Georges Franju: Behind the Mask

For die-hard film fans, his name will always be linked to horror masterpiece "Eyes Without a Face", the first French pure horror specimen, as well as the birth of the now legendary French Cinematheque, a small film club Georges Franju once started with his buddy Henri Langlois in 1935.

Apart from these two very important accomplishments, the unsung French auteur is responsible for a thoroughly eclectic filmography, including a series of sui generis short documentaries, highly atmospheric features with fantasy overtones, intricate literary adaptations, eccentric tributes to silent movie serials and pulp detective novels, all beautifully crafted with a poetic outlook that makes Franju’s work a bizarre parenthesis in the history of French cinema, that’s unlike anything else.

Contrary to his younger colleagues, who were staging their own revolution with the Nouvelle Vague using film criticism as their point of departure, Franju was a passionate film lover, whose work is often permeated by retro pop culture and pulp fiction references, filtered through an idiosyncratic perspective that breathed new life into the contrived naivete of these marginal genres. Suspended somewhere between realism and fantasy, and heavily indebted to surrealism and expressionism, Georges Franju’s own brand of cinema possesses a quality that’s hard to put into words.

Mostly based on imagery and atmosphere and much less reliant on dialogue or narrative, it draws its power from gentle allusions and elevating paradox within an otherwise mundane environment. With a directorial style that feels old-school and timeless at the same time, Franju built a filmography that’s impossible to fit in one box, full of characters confined in physical or mental prisons, where lyricism alternates with documentary-like grittiness and humor comes after melancholy.

Otherworldly and delicate, his oeuvre isn’t remarkable in quantity but it’s remarkable in quality, a unique film heritage that still hasn’t found its rightful place in world cinema.

Thanasis Patsavos

Filmography (features)

1974 Nuits rouges
1970 La faute de l'abbé Mouret
1965 Thomas l'imposteur
1963 Judex
1962 Thérèse Desqueyroux
1961 Pleins feux sur l'assassin
1960 Les yeux sans visage
1959 La tête contre les murs



    Publication date: 2013-09-11 12:30:00

    Shadowman

    Shadowman

    Once again, Georges Franju embraces his influences by Louis Feuillade's silent movie series and retro pop culture (Feuillade's grandson Jacques Champreux is back on screenwriting duty), propelling them to new and unprecedented heights of eccentricity.

    Thomas the Impostor

    Thomas the Impostor

    Balancing lyricism and realism, the director illustrates the war-ravaged landscape as an arena of absolute absurdity, full of hollow delusions and unfulfilled fantasies, where innocence is doomed to crash and burn into the harsh reality.

    Judex

    Judex

    Enigmatic avenger Judex kidnaps a corrupt banker on a quest for justice on behalf of his victims and then takes his innocent daughter under his wing to protect her from her father's demonic mistress.

    Thérèse Desqueyroux

    Thérèse Desqueyroux

    True to the spirit of Claude Mauriac's novel, Franju transports the viewer to the asphyxiating atmosphere surrounding Therese, inspiring compassion for his enigmatic heroine, whose extreme reactions and self-destructive trajectory play as a personal revolution against hypocrisy, in a society that's in a hurry to brand anyone who doesn't fit the norms as an outcast.

    Eyes Without a Face

    Eyes Without a Face

    Despite popular prejudice, which refused to take the horror genre seriously at the time, Franju turns the ingredients of a cheap b-movie into high art, expressing his concerns about the limitations of science and radically renewing Gothic mythology with a bizarre hybrid of horror, science fiction, melodrama and film noir.