Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960)
A horror movie about face transplants. It sounds pretty cheesy, but in fact it’s an understated, underplayed, beautifully photographed film. The genius is in the details: cars waiting at a train crossing, the sky gray, the pavement wet. The sound, unexplained for the moment, of dogs wailing when a man opens his garage door. The death of one of the malefactors, stabbed with a scalpel in the neck, between the strands of her pearl choker, which has been mentioned before because it hides her surgical scar. "Why?" she says as she sits down in the corner to die.
The dialog is full of authentic medical touches that lend credibility. In fact the film never seems incredible for a moment. What makes this truly impressive is that it precedes the first genuine face transplants by 45 years. Real-life recipients include people mauled by a bear, a chimpanzee, and, in the very first successful transplant, a dog—-which makes the movie’s combination of dog attack with face transplant weirdly topical.