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Before directing "Salon Kitty" and moving into the erotic style of film
making that he is more known for director Tinto Brass made a series of
movies that can only be called "pop art" (these also include "L'urlo"
and "Col cuore in gola"). This one, my personal favorite, follows a
beautiful young woman (Anita Sanders) who, after being dropped off in
the park by what seems to be her husband (I don't speak much Italian
unfortunately!), spends the day wandering the city where she is
sometimes pursued by a Black man who she seems to have an interest in
despite her reluctance to confront him. On her trip Brass sneaks in
statements on politics, racism, hippies, sexuality, conformity and
other topical subjects through the use of disjointed editing, stock
footage, psychedelia, and music from the UK rock group The Freedom (not
the American group of the same name) who pop in and out performing the
movie's groovy score. This is certainly a movie for someone enjoying
nonsensical, train-of-thought plot less counterculture type films and
anyone not liking that kind of thing would probably wanna steer clear.
Radley Metzger released the film in the US through his Audobon
distributing group as "The Artful Penetration of Barbara". This
version, in Italian language only with a small Italian TV logo in the
corner, is the only copy I have ever been able to find! It
unfortunately appears to be cut as some of the nudity looks trimmed and
some of it is covered up with a big psychedelic swirly thing! I have
seen the excellent US trailer (as "Artful...") and would love to find
an English language and uncut copy!
UPDATE: An English language version is now out on DVD from Cult Epics. It appears to have been sourced from 16mm but looks decent. There is an Italian version floating around from Italian cable TV that looks a bit more sharp but, alas, there are no English subtitles. Interstingly enough, each version has 1 song that is not in the other. Also the excellent tune "Seeing Is Believing" was used only in the trailer and does not appear in any version of the film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though I have only seen the Italian language TV print, this is
still an amazing film! Tinto Brass is truly a master of cinema.
Visually, this film is just stunning and the music is excellent. Brass really aims at covering many themes of the time. Interracial romance is one of the major plot elements. A woman is followed by a handsome black gentleman after her husband appears to drop her off in a park. She also encounters free loving hippies, war protests, interracial violence, suicide etc...
As much as I enjoy Brass' erotic films, I fell in love with his surrealist approach. One can only hope that one day a complete version of the film is released.
I usually enjoy this sort of thing, and did somewhat enjoy the other
two early Tinto Brass psychedelic relics recently released to DVD, "The
Howl" and "Deadly Sweet." But this is just aimless and annoying.
The non-story follows a vaguely dissatisfied, big-haired young wife (the rather grim Anita Sanders) as she wanders around London for a day, followed by an handsome black admirer (Terry Carter) whom she fantasizes about shagging but never actually does. Meanwhile, her supposed stream-of-consciousness viewpoint (a concept stretched well past the breaking point) makes room for then-typical montages of contemporary news/historic atrocity footage, plenty of body-painted naked hippies, reality-vs.-illusion nonsense, empty splitscreen/editorial flashiness, et al.
The ending is kinda cool, and I liked the way in which British rock band Freedom is woven in throughout--playing their (just OK) songs wherever our heroine goes, even from tree branches when she's in a park.
But the teasing lure of then-shocking "black on white" (the original title translation) sexual relations proves a cheat; nothing of character, story or even genuine aesthetic interest emerges; and like the worst films of the era it pretends to be making a statement about turbulent times by simply name-checking hot button issues. (Quite literally, as an occasional BBC-type disembodied voice keeps saying things like "And whot about...Martin Luther King? ...Che Guevara?...Love?...Hate?...." ad nauseum.)
As previously noted, I usually love this kind of dated counterculture obscurity. But "Nerosubianco" is one of those movies best experienced on a screen you're go-go dancing in front of, not one you're actually paying attention to. I'm glad Tinto Brass had a period of faddishly wresting with the era's radical currents before turning to stylish softcore. But this movie makes it clear he never had the intellectual or even instinctual depth to grasp any theme larger than "Oooh...she's sexy." Which theme dates back to time immemorial...but usually isn't hogtied to pretentious non-statements about the Vietnam War, miscegenation, and so forth.
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