FEB. 27–MARCH 4

When he began making this black-and-white 1960 chiller, director Georges Franju once recalled, “I was told: No sacrilege because of the Spanish market, no nudity because of the Italian market, no blood because of the French market, and don’t kill any animals because of the English market.” The French director didn’t follow those injunctions to the letter, although the movie is characterized more by elegant creepiness than outrages to national sensibilities. Indeed, the once-controversial centerpiece—which caused seven people to faint at the Edinburgh Film Festival 40 years ago—is only slightly bloody, but it does come as a shock in a film that tends to suggest rather than show. That propensity is partially for technical reasons: This is the tale of a surgeon whose faithful assistant kidnaps young women so the doc can remove their faces, a procedure whose results would be both difficult and grisly to depict. Introduced lecturing on the possibilities of the “heterograft,” Professor Génessier is no abstract theorist. At his clinic outside Paris, he’s coolly attempting to replace the face of his daughter Christiane (Edith Scob), whose features were mangled in a car crash. Rather than the customary deformed male sidekick, Génessier has the elegant Louise (Alida Valli, perhaps best known for The Third Man), who lures Christiane look-alikes to the clinic for what could be called, well, face-lifts. It’s all a little silly, of course, but treated with a lyrical sense of foreboding that’s closer to Jean Cocteau than John Carpenter. The film opens Friday, Feb. 27, and screens daily through Thursday, March 4, at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)

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