This paper presents a filtering method for efficient face image retrieval over large volume of face databases. The proposed method employs a new face image descriptor, called a cell-orientation vector (COV). It has a simple form: a 72-dimensional vector of integers from 0 to 8. Despite of its simplicity, it achieves high accuracy and efficiency. Our experimental results show that the proposed method based on COVs provides better performance than a recent approach based on identity-based quantization in terms of both accuracy and efficiency.