Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’16: The Eyes of My Mother
Francisca is sort of like the protagonists
in Oprah Book Club picks. Having suffered a childhood trauma, she is now
perpetuating the cycle of violence. However, her thing for sewing eyes shut
isn’t very Wally Lamb. Francisca will duly apply all the lessons she learned in
Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother, which screens during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
People will try to tell you differently,
but Eyes is absolutely, positively a
horror film. Even at a young age, Francisca knew how to cut, thanks to her
lessons with her retired surgeon mother. Unfortunately, the mother daughter bonding
will be cut short when “Charlie” the serial killer fast talks his way into
their home. Francisca’s grizzled old father returns in time to save her, but
not her mother. The experience will deeply scar the young girl’s psyche.
However, it safe to say Charlie does not make a clean getaway either.
As Francisca grows into adulthood, her
issues compound and fester. Clearly, living alone does not help her social
development—make that mostly alone. Periodically, she will seek ways to
alleviate her loneliness, but these only lead to further horrors.
There are parts of Eyes that are tough to watch—like significant audience walkouts at
the Library Theater tough. Yet, it is also one of the most visually stylish
films you can ever hope to see. Zach Kuperstein’s black-and-white
cinematographer is truly arresting, evoking the tone of early David Lynch.
Pesce’s command of the audience is also remarkably dexterous. He will leave a
good twenty-five percent of the house absolutely mortified, yet he shows very
little actual on-screen violence. Instead, he and co-editor Connor Sullivan
typically cut away at the moment of impact to a dramatic scene of the aftermath
that really drives home the gruesome implications.
Kiki Magalhaes is pretty terrifying as
Francisca, but she always conveys a sense of her as a lost, little girl, mired
in a state of arrested development. Paul Nazak is also so convincingly grizzled
and leathery, we can totally believe he spent his entire life on hardscrabble
farms. However, Clara Wong might just become the face of the film as Kimiko,
one of Francisca’s starter victims. (Honestly, I probably took her death harder
than any other horror movie killing since I first saw Duane Jones get shot in
the closing seconds of Night of the
The problem is Pesce takes things way too
far. He crosses lines that are simply no fun to violate (you will know when he
gets there by the people voting with their feet). Despite the lack of technical
gore (give or take a few sewn-up eye sockets), there are scenes that approach
torture porn for the sheer pain inflicted therein.
there is no denying the talent that produced Eyes. In many ways, it compares to Jaunfer Andrés & Esteban Roel’s Shrew’s Nest (both of which feature
delicate-looking psycho-matrons), but Pesce’s execution is tighter, tenser, and
more stylish. It I a film genre connoisseurs have to respect, even while
getting bludgeoned by it. Recommended for adventurous horror fans (because it
is seriously a horror film), The Eyes of
My Mother screens again this Tuesday (1/26) in Salt Lake and Thursday
(1/28) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: Horror Movies, Sundance '16