Human Face - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Human Face Reviews

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October 5, 2011
The First Thing We Base Our Reactions On

I don't know that I think Elizabeth Hurley was the most beautiful woman in the UK in 2001, though of course there's also the possibility that she was the most beautiful woman willing to do the series, which probably included doing the series on the cheap. It's certainly true that she is classically beautiful; the extent to which she is can be conclusively demonstrated, and it is, on the show. I'm just saying that all the hyping of her beauty gets a little tiresome. I wouldn't exactly say that everyone is beautiful compared to John Cleese, though he certainly comes off second best compared to a lot of people. Pierce Brosnan is on two episodes of the show, so there's that, too. I also find it a bit irritating that they feel the need to have a Beautiful Female Co-host on the thing at all, because that's really all they ever use her for. I know very little about Elizabeth Hurley the person, but it's certainly possible to have a beautiful woman who is also intelligent. Though I suppose that would have then taken emphasis off John Cleese.

Made for the BBC in 2001, this is a four-part series examining the human face (duh) and its importance in how humans interact with the world. The first part is about how human minds react to others' faces, including an interview with a person with Asperger's Syndrome who talks about not being able to read faces and a man who is unable to recognize faces, even those of his own children. The second part is about fame, including an analysis of what exactly makes a famous face. Three men vie for representation with a famous Hollywood casting agent. Part three is about that elusive quality, beauty, and how it is more universal than perhaps we might think. And part four is about how we use the face to reveal and conceal what we're thinking and feeling, including pointing out that we're not necessarily as good at reading other faces as we think we are.

There's a lot of information to the show. Effort is made to keep it as entertaining as possible, but science is emphasized. The analysis of Elizabeth Hurley's beauty is done by placing a "Golden Ratio map" over her face, which it fits almost perfectly. Celebrities such as Candice Bergen and William Goldman put in appearances--as, of course, do Michael Palin and Prunella Scales. However, they don't get as much screen time as the scientists do, and it almost feels as though they're showing us Joan Rivers to keep us from turning the show off. Knowledge in tiny doses, you see. There are also a lot of skits and case studies, which also serve to break the information up into more digestible bits. There's a lot to learn, and I'd argue that a lot of it is important to know, but it would be really easy to make this material really dry. Though perhaps not as presented as John Cleese.

Okay, it's also a bit hard to take Pierce Brosnan seriously when he talks about how little he likes being "pretty." Though I think time has granted him his wish, and he now looks more "rugged." But there are also more touching, more [i]real[/i] sequences. The little girl with paralyzed facial muscles who cannot smile. The guy with Asperger's who wants to read a book analyzing facial expressions so he can learn them and get by better in society. The couple who, it turns out, are probably headed for divorce and just don't seem to know it themselves, even to know quite how they feel about each other. There is the disheartening and inevitable comparison between that first little girl and the woman who wants to have a different nose so she can fit in better with her white friends. After all, everyone has a face, and faces really are just that important.

Of course, you can't judge someone solely by their face. If for no other reason than because we all learn how to lie with them pretty much right away. But that doesn't stop us and never has. Probably it never will. The show reminds us that people tend to score no better than chance in determining if someone is lying or not. Even the so-called "trained observers" certain people are so determined to cite when ascribing veracity. ("The cop didn't think he was lying!") However, the show also reminds us that faces have always been one of the things to make us human. It's how we recognize each other. It's what we first see of one another. Being human is not only having a face but judging others by theirs. It is true that I am better able to recognize John Cleese on sight than more than a few of my own relatives, but there are relatives I would guess at because I see my own face in them. That's just being human.
½ August 7, 2010
Was a quite enjoyable documentary.
½ February 17, 2008
This is an entertaining and informative video about face expressions, face perception and other aspect of faciality. John Cleese manages to make the film hilarious and you are sure not to doze off while watching it. What I enjoyed particularly about the film is how it succeeds in telling about major psychological and scientifil achievements in an amusing and light way.
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