16 March 2019 | hitchcockthelegend
Typewriter Terror and Hill Rolling Rumbles.
Les yeux cernés (Marked Eyes) is directed by Robert Hossein and Hossein stars and co-writes the screenplay with Claude Desailly, André Tabet and Georges Tabet. Starring with Hossein are Michèle Morgan, Marie-France Pisier and François Patrice . Music is by André Hossein and cinematography by Jean Boffety.
We open with the murder of a timber baron, the perpetrator is unseen by us, but spied by a pair of eyes peeping through the crack of a wooded slat. When said timber baron's estranged wife travels to the Austrian alps for his funeral, she begins to receive typewritten blackmail letters demanding money with a sinister angle . Choosing to put faith in Franz, a man she's just met, instead of Friedrich, the local police inspector, she is soon treading in fearful waters...
From the off it should be noted that this kind of comes off as a softer blend of two Clouzot greats in Les diaboliques and Le Corbeau. The writing here is merely ok, a steady whodunit mystery with noirish overtones, the screenplay is only really saved by the denouement. However, where Hossein fails as a writer he doesn't as a director.
Pic is full of smart camera ticks, low level shots, close and personal frames and fluid roams, while he rarely misses a chance for some noir visuals aided by Boffety's moody monochrome. The location is cold and isolated, which is perfect for the shady shenanigans unfolding, while André Hossein's (Robert's father) scores it in his customary schizophrenic way (supernatural, jolly, quirky and threatening plonks).
Odd ball sequences such as the wonderfully sensual Pisier (excellent) rolling down a grassy hill, cheekily blend in with edgy scenes like classical beauty Morgan (trying hard with the weak script) navigating her way through a stoney labyrinth hunting the tappity tap of the typewriter that is tormenting her psyche. And with Hossein his usual solid as a rock noir protagonist self, there's a lot of technical goodness on show to enjoy. Plus there is of course some twisters to seal the deal.
Robert Hossein is a Frenchman that lovers of film noir should be familiar with, his work in that style of film making is of considerable interest to fans of such fare. Les yeux cernés is not one of his highpoints, mind, but once again you get a picture thats strengths far outweighs its weaknesses. 7/10