Pierre Brasseur did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doctor Génessier in Eyes Without A Face.
The last time I saw a film with Pierre Brasseur it was Children of Paradise where he played a charismatic stage actor. I'll admit I did not recognize Brasseur as I began watching this film, not only because of his noticeable physical changes from fifteen years of age, but also the vast difference in performance style. In that earlier film Brasseur was outgoing and purposefully larger than life fitting the grand stage presence of the man he was playing. Here Brasseur gives a far more subdued performance, as he barely raises his voice throughout the film. We first meet the doctor as he is identifying the apparent body of his daughter in the morgue. Brasseur is whisper quiet as he tells the attendants that it is indeed his daughter, and even goes about oddly speaking to another man looking for his daughter. Brasseur still stays reserved though effectively portrays a man above suspicion. It seems like his state is that of someone emotionally distant due to suffering from grief.
After the funeral though we soon discover that his daughter is in fact alive, though still disfigured. Brasseur's performance matches this reveal as a man distant not due to grief, but rather by his obsession. The obsession to find his daughter a new face, which unfortunately turns him into almost a serial killer as he kidnaps other young women in order to replace his daughter's lost face. That opening scene earns a new meaning as the doctor was in fact looking over the body of the woman he actually killed, through surgery, and the other father is actually the one who has lost someone. Brasseur does seem to infuse just the slightest hint of guilt within the doctor's reactions in the scene, though his obsession is enough to keep him from feeling any real sympathy for the poor man. After all the doctor does not cease his attempts to find the face after that failure, continuing on his course to kidnap as many women as needed in order for his daughter to regain what she has lost.
Brasseur is rather chilling in the role by presenting the doctor as being so matter of fact about the procedure. He does not portray any maliciousness on the doctor's part as he goes about disfiguring the women, but rather just a proper surgeon going about his task. Where Brasseur does bring an emotional quality is in his interactions with his daughter. Now here Brasseur is just as chilling as in the operating scenes, even though he portrays these interactions with such a delicate warmth. He presents only honest affection in the doctor, but Brasseur effectively realizes the unnerving quality of that affection by realizing how it has created this narrow mindset in the man. When the daughter notes any objection for his actions, Brasseur presents just a father who firmly believes he is doing what is right for his daughter, who he loves without equivocation. He completely ignores her but Brasseur plays this with a bizarre assurance of a man who knows in his heart what he is doing is right, despite how wrong he clearly is. Now the character of Doctor Génessier ends up being a fairly limited one, as he's Dr. Frankenstein, but unlike Dr. Frakenstein he never even second guesses his devotion to his questionable task. The doctor keeps his set path to the bitter end, and Brasseur delivers a strong performance which brings that disturbing mindset to life.