Not as brilliant as his ‘Eyes Without a Face’ but surely something as exciting and impressive thrill-ride and as overwhelmingly classy and poetic as his earlier masterpiece. Combining the elements of fantasy and realism, lyricism and brutality, haunting thrill and bizarre surrealism, George Franju’s ‘Judex’ is visual masterpiece for many reasons. It begins with a rich baker receiving a threatening note from a stranger named Judex who’s demanding to payback people he has swindled over the years. even though the arrangement, the very next day Judex appeared in disguise and the banker died. But things were not as we assumed as there’s lot of intrigue about who’s who that follows with many twists and turns to give you edge on the seat thrill ride.
The film is homage to Louis Feuillade’s 1914 silent film by the same name and also Fantomas, a series of popular French crime fiction also filmed in serial forms by Feuillade. There’s so much technical richness in Franju’s work, most notable is his impressive use of German Expressionism & Gothic set up in frames. The entry scene of Judex with bird head was influenced by remarkable French caricaturist and illustrator J J Grandville, who perhaps was the first surreal artist belong to pre-Freuadian era and precursor of Surrealist Movement led by Andre Breton & popularized by Dali.
Though he claimed once that since he didn’t have story writing gift in him, what he focused on is putting novelty into form. There’s no doubt that he brilliantly executed and narrated the film with gripping thrill and pace but at the same time he crafted it with strong Black & White visuals that makes the film compelling watch. From start to finish he maintained brilliant twists and turns with intriguing identity, representing multiple action going on simultaneously featuring secret getaways, escape windows and secret chamber inside walls. It’s quite disheartening to know that the man who pioneered ‘French Cinematheque’ and gave us two unforgettable films didn’t receive much support from his peers and public in the later part of his career.