Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Tag: faces

Losing face: the hysteria of identity in face-swapping films

A still from Joel Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Seconds."

For the most part we all grow up with this idea that the person you are is separate from the sack of skin and bones you lug it around in. The self is an untouchable essence locked up inside the body somewhere. In a way, the face is just an afterthought. It’s the way your self communicates with the world. But when you think about it, human life is centered around the face. It’s the one thing on the body that doesn’t really change over time. Sure, you get some wrinkles, but the essential components stay in place for your whole life – eyes, nose, mouth, and their relationships to one another. They don’t change. Despite how similarly human faces are formed, they belong to specific people. When the face of someone deceased appears in a dream, it haunts you through the day. Often, you recognize a face in the street, even without remembering how you know the person it belongs to. It’s haunting just how solidly specific faces become branded in our memories.

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Some notes on the face in cinema


Greta Garbo: auteur of the face

The draw of the face

Watching a movie brings, among other things, the distinctive joy of looking at faces that are building-height. Watching an face extended in time, particularly an enormous one, is eternally riveting, no matter what it’s doing. The camera allows us to become attached to the sensibility of certain faces, those which help us in some way uncover the mystery of the visage and what makes it so fascinating in life and on camera. 

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