Inspired by giallolooks.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, what are we to make of the make-up that frames them? Edwige Fenech, the uber babe and face of giallo, has one of the most distinct looks. Her big eyes are framed with large fake eyelashes and no other obvious make-up in almost all her roles in gialli. Though there is certainly the real world circumstances of her controlling her image and finding that this look to be the one that suits her best, the amount of time spent in close-ups of her face and eyes makes one ruminate on what is going on here.
Fenech’s eyes are accentuated through her false eyelashes, but remain without colour. Fenech is undoubtably beautiful, and keeping her face free of obvious make-up, eyeshadow, bold lipstick, etc, outside of the false lashes, only draws attention to it. Her appearance is sparse, which allows for extremes. With her pale colouring she is almost black and white, and there is something very old about an eye full of fear, something animalistic when responding to death. By keeping her eyes sparse with make-up, their large frame reveals what her characters are feeling, and allows for the audience to project into them. Often a light is shone onto a face, explicitly direction our attention towards her wide eyes, and what those eyes can convey.
The close up of the eye in giallo is usually a means of demonstrating fear, one’s eyes full of horror, or madness, a close up of the killer before he is about to strike. ‘Good close-ups are lyrical; it is the heart, not the eye, that has perceived them’, Béla Balázs write his Theory of the Film. In those moments where the knife is about to strike, all that matters is the emotion the characters are feeling. Which is why the choice of the eye is interesting. A scream and a wide open mouth could convey the same sentiment, but some eyes can capture the expression of a whole face. When terrified, we lose control of our body. The eyes often reveal more than one intends, and this wide-eyed terror reinforces how dire the situations often are. The audience feels the fear of the protagonist, and in their eyes our own fear is reflected back.
Her eyelashes, for all their ability to allow emotions to be channeled from film to audience, are often a reminder of how fabricated these films are. Fenech bathes and her eyelashes remain attached. She wakes up after a bad night’s sleep with each hair perfectly placed. She has been unconscious for days and wakes up in a hospital bed, looking exquisite. There is no health care plan that includes make-up touch ups while your unconscious. It is in these moments that we see not only how constructed the film is, but how constructed appearance is as well. Gialli does not aim for realism, but there is the normal degree of verisimilitude in narrative films. The unreality of the maintenance of her appearance is a reminder of how appearances are constructed, and that while we may have our own fear reflected in her eyes, that too is manipulated.