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San Sebastian honors France’s Franju

Fest releases first details for 2012 edition

MADRID — The 60th San Sebastian Film Festival is to honor Gallic helmer Georges Franju.

Franju, who was born in 1912, was heavily influenced by the surrealist movement, as were many of his generation — think Spain’s Luis Bunuel.

Over 1949-51, he made a trilogy of what he called “slaughter” documentaries — “The Blood of Beasts,” about a slaughterhouse, “Passing By the Lorraine,” questioning France’s modernization, and “Hotel des invalides,” set at a military hospital.

Franju’s second fiction feature, the sometimes near surreal “Eyes Without a Face” — about a Paris surgeon killing young girls to graft their face skin onto his daughter, disfigured in a road accident — is now a cult item.

As guest artistic director, Pedro Almodovar included it in his four-pic sidebar at Los Angeles’ American Film Institute Festival in November, saying it was “the only conscious cinematographic inspiration” for “The Skin I Live In.”

He was aslo admired for 1961’s crime fiction homage “Spotlight on a Murderer,” as well as literary adaptations such as 1970’s Emile Zola-inspired “The Demise of Father Mouret.”

Franju co-founded the Cinematheque Francaise with Henri Langlois in 1936.

With Franju having achieved some of his best work with crime movies, the tribute is in line with the push by Jose Luis Rebordinos, San Sebastian director since January 2010, to expand the festival’s range.

In another sign of renovation, San Sebastian announced Wednesday it would spin off the New Directors strand of its main Zabaltegi sidebar into a more prominent, standalone New Directors Section.

It will still carry a €90,000 ($115,000) Kutza-New Directors Award.

Fest runs Sept. 21-29.

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