Georges Franju and the grotesque genius of the banlieue
in Screening the Paris suburbs
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The author addresses the spatial determinations at play in Georges Franju’s French horror masterpiece Les Yeux sans visage (1960), in which a mad scientist bent on reconstructing his daughter’s damaged face tortures and kills the unsuspecting young women he lures to his suburban villa. The author argues for a strong correlation between Franju’s directorial sensibility and the Paris suburbs’ culturally and geographically peripheral status. A locus of untold violence, Dr Génissier’s secluded villa cloaks the extraordinary under the guise of the ordinary to unsettle the film audience in a strong rejection of the nostalgic tones of Jacques Becker’s Casque d’or and of Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle from the same period. The author relates themes of banishment and disfiguration to the sociological effects of suburban upheaval during the Trente Glorieuses. The story of Dr Génissier’s experiments gone awry – ultimately a story about the duality of victimhood and predatory madness – comes symptomatically to express other social processes at work in French culture of the period.

Screening the Paris suburbs

From the silent era to the 1990s

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