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Admittedly a very hard to find forgotten Italian film, this may very well rank among the weirdest movies Europe has produced. I went into this one expecting a giallo, but instead of black gloved killers and endless red herrings I got psychological horror in the vein of Roman Polanski's Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. Although it does have affinities with the giallo genre. A psychologically scarred heroine with a tormented childhood, very good photography with bright colours, smooth camera-work and subtle frames that most of the time work on two levels.
The story revolves around Silvia (played by non other than Mimsi Farmer), an industrial scientist, with a troubled childhood who gradually loses her grip and starts having visions of a little girl, relives traumatizing events of the past in broad daylight, and soon begins to off those close to her. The gore factor is downplayed, the murders are few and far between but they are effective. The movie kind of drags at first, and there are several sequences that seem uneventful and do nothing to push the plot forward, while those other sequences that do help the plot evolve are most of the time baffling. It's like pieces of a puzzle that don't fit together. All the end does is show you, they belong to the same puzzle (if that makes any sense). The borders between reality and fantasy blur in a David Lynch-esquire way. It wouldn't surprise me if Lynch drew inspiration from this forgotten piece of Italian celluloid for his Mullholand Dr. All in all, I'd say that if you can keep your attention focused for the duration and pick up on the little hints and details that appear frequently, you'll find this a rewarding experience.
Up until the ending this was a 5/10 for me, but the ending alone kicked it up another notch. Satisfying but not a handed down solution to the puzzle, again in a Lynch-esquire way. It's open for interpretation instead of spelling everything out for the viewer. That's a quality I love in films.
The problem comes from the fact that this if often advertised as a Dario Argento-like Giallo, and it's anything but that. While it's easy to see the visual and atmospheric influence this film had on Argento, The Perfume is much closer to an Antonioni film than it is to other Italian scare flicks. Watch it with this approach in mind and you will be literally hypnotized.
Kudos to the main actress who delivers a great performance in a role that had no precise definition on paper!
What one will find, however, is cinematic beauty, genuine creepiness, a nightmarish atmosphere and utter insanity in equal doses in this bizarre, sometimes confusing, sometimes spine-chilling gem. The beautiful Mimsy Farmer stars as Silvya Hachermann, a chemist tormented by nightmarish visions related to her own childhood... I don't want do give too much of the storyline away, since it is unforeseeable and often bizarre, but I am sure it will appeal to most of my fellow Italian Horror fans. If the film has one weakness, it is that it is sometimes a bit too confusing, and does not always make perfect sense, but then, the film's obscure, sometimes surreal nature mostly makes up for this. Mimsy Farmer is once again wonderful in her role. Farmer is known to Italian Horror fans for her roles in films like "Macchie Solari" (aka. "Autospsy", 1975), Dario Argento's "Four Flies On Grea Velvet" (1971) and this one. Beautiful as she is, Farmer also has a great talent to play women on the cusp of mental instability, and she once again delivers an outstanding performance here. The other performances are all very good, especially memorable are Mario Scaccia as a friendly elderly neighbor, and Orazio Orlando as a truly sleazy scumbag. "Beautiful" is a word often used to describe this film, and for understandable reasons (at least as far as the visual style goes). This must be one of the most visually striking Italian Horror films of the early/mid 70s, and this is saying something as the combination of this genre, country and period bears countless films that are visually astounding. The photography is as impressive as the settings, and the many occult elements only make the film more effective. The score by Nicola Piovani is also great and contributes a lot to the film's creepy atmosphere. "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black" is a chilling and nightmarish film with an ascending atmosphere of insanity and a brilliant leading performance by Mimsy Farmer. Beautiful and terrifying in equal measures, this stylish and obscure cult-gem is highly recommended to all my fellow fans of Italian Horror.
This is more a psychological horror film that a true giallo. It was a tale of a woman going mad over unresolved traumas from her childhood. Or, maybe it was a tale of a woman being driven mad for nefarious purposes. It was not totally clear, but there were little clues throughout.
Whatever the case, the ending was a total surprise and nothing led you to expect it.
To get right to the underlying reason for watching these kinds of films, Mimsy gets naked twice: once briefly in a fairly rapid love making scene (where the camera likes to pan away) and at the very end with the "surprise" twistish ending. The murders don't really happen until the 1:20 mark, and there is no real gore to speak of until the very end, so be prepared for a very LONG wait for anything to happen.
By the way, did I mention that this film is very dull? When I see words like "hypnotic" and "dreamlike" popping up when describing any film, they seem to be code for "drawn out" or "putting me to sleep".
The plot goes something like this:
Mimsy Farmer is a technician at a factory (either producing chemicals or beer, I couldn't tell which), who has frequent nightmares about her childhood and her mother (particularly how she died). In the course of this, she has a meeting with her boyfriend and some friends of his, some of whom appear to be dignitaries from Africa who converse about the dawning of science over witchcraft. As the story progresses, Mimsy's mental health starts to deteriorate as she begins to see a little girl who looks strangely like herself at the same age, as well as her mother in mirrors and the like. By the end of it, she is dressing like her mother and has gone quite mad, killing her boyfriend, the elderly scholar who resided beside her and her mother's former lover. It is revealed that Mimsy interrupted her mother having intercourse with the "lover" (or payee, if you know what I mean) and killed her own mother by pushing her out a window...thus, over time, the guilt (and maybe a little bit of shamanistic help from the aforementioned African dignitaries) pushed her over the edge quite literally.
Yet, while one could consider this to be a proper ending for the main character, it is further revealed that the 3 people she killed are indeed still alive (which I am guessing the entire sequence was "in her head"), and they proceed to take her body to an underground tunnel, where everyone given any screen time in the movie participates in a cannibalistic ritual, with her boyfriend gutting her and the rest lining up to pull out a piece to eat.
Now I can respect the visual aspect of the last shot, which (other than the Mimsy nudity) is the only saving grace of the film. Otherwise (as a friend put it tonight after finishing the film), "that's a pretty convoluted way to get your dinner".
All in all, I was just too bored in the end to care about either twist, as I could see the "Mimsy dying the same way her mother did" ending the moment the method was revealed, and the cannibal ritual stuff was never dealt with very well to the degree that it felt tacked onto the main story.
Carrying on with the diamond idea...this film is absolutely stunning to look at! The vibrant colour scheme (which mainly consists of yellow) ensures this and every scene is beautifully photographed by director Francesco Barilli. Barilli directs the film with care, and every vista is dripping with a double meaning bubbling below the surface. Mimsy Farmer (who has worked with Italian legends Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci) takes the lead role, and only adds to the aesthetic value. This beautiful actress is a delight to look at, and her image always suits the film. The plot is character based, and the plot points are few. Because of this, several points will be lost on the casual viewer, and The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a film that needs to be viewed carefully in order for it to be fully appreciated. The film benefits from a foreboding atmosphere, which is perfectly backed up by the music score; and the way that it climaxes in bloody and brutal fashion brilliantly offsets the pace of what has gone before. The Perfume of the Lady in Black is not an easy film to track down; but if you get the chance to see it, I definitely recommend taking it!
After the success of "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), the Italian horror world began to embrace Satanic and occult stories. This is one of them. Director Francesco Barilli took a cue from early Argento and made a giallo with some dark undertones. He previously wrote a script for Umberto Lenzi, but had not directed a feature himself.
The cast may not be well-known outside of Italy, but have appeared in Lenzi, Argento and D'Amato films. One even appeared in the notorious "Salo", and a few starred alongside Daria Nicolodi in a picture. So there is plenty of connection here.
This film is beautifully shot with excellent color and better than average acting. It deserves more recognition than it gets. Wikipedia and IMDb are relatively silent on the film's creation, and even Italian horror historian Luca Palmerini has little more than a sentence to say about it in his book...
The oddly-named and strangely attractive Mimsy Farmer is at it again, in another of the imperiled/troubled/and possibly insane roles that she had down to a science back in the 1970s. (You can also catch this act in AUTOPSY, THE BLACK CAT, and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, among others.) This time she's an initially happy career-woman whose life goes down the tubes when awful images from her childhood begin plaguing her and people close to her turn up dead. Is she going crazy on her own, or is it some sort of Satanic conspiracy? It'll take you awhile to find out, and gorehounds will have to wait an hour to see even a trace of the bright red stuff; but there's enough foreboding atmosphere, strange locations and bizarre characters to hold interest until then. (If all else fails, you can amuse yourself by trying to figure out who has the bigger Lauren-Hutton-style gap between the front teeth, Mimsy or supporting player Daniela Barnes.) Gore highlights in the final reels include two vicious cleaver murders, severed body parts in a cat's dinner dish and a brief but powerful gut-wrenching finale that will stick in your cranium for days afterward.
Director Francesco Barilli helms this one and, on the strength of this film, he is a director who definitely didn't get a chance to make enough movies. This is a very odd giallo which mixes unusual elements together such as Alice in Wonderland and the African occult. It's presented in a visual style that is often breathtakingly beautiful; one scene involving a medium particularly stands out, where the use of colour and mirrors is quite wonderful. On the whole, it's a very classy production that begins like it means to go on with a fantastic extended opening crane shot that takes us from a child's toy boat in a fountain way up to the high balconies where a couple of the key characters are introduced. This visual elegance in some ways can throw the viewer off-guard however as there are some proper visceral shocks to come in this one, as anybody who has seen it can attest. The lead actress is Mimsy Farmer who also starred in Dario Argento's earlier classic-style giallo Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). On the basis of that movie I wasn't too impressed with her, seeing as she over-acted excessively; which is why I was so pleasantly surprised with her work here, where she is in practically every scene and does pretty convincing work in a role that requires a decent amount of range.
This is certainly a high quality giallo, although it will no doubt not have universal appeal to all seasoned fans of the sub-genre given it travels down a less hysterical path to its conclusion. It does venture into some very unusual territory for these kinds of films, however, and certainly is a very fine example of the genre.
That isn't really a spoiler, as it's pretty clearly the direction of the movie within the first ten minutes. And to be sure, this movie does deal in clichés. What does set it apart are the long, drawn out musical cues while our heroine stares ominously at walls and/or doorknobs, and the startling-ness of robotically acted scenes with actors who more act as vessels of personified terror than humans with personalities.
Each scene in this movie is like an expressionist painting, pulling you into it's mood. It does this so well that I don't really care what the plot is.
This movie has boobs in it.
The film is shot in Rome and has a very interesting look to it. I kept thinking of an Argento film (Susperia?) with hints of Rosemary's Baby, The Sentinel and Carnival of Souls. There are several interesting male characters around the woman and they seem to know something about her that she herself doesn't know.
It is mysterious without becoming too scary. The settings are very nice and there is just enough mystery to keep one interested. The ending is shocking and unsettling though and may turn some people off.
All in all I found this enjoyable and would keep it in my collection.
Barilli, main character in Before the Revolution (B Bertolucci , 1964) , basically directed just another film after this one, plus one episode in a 1991 film ("La Domenica Specialmente") He is more of a painter ( you could not have missed the painting on the wall of Silvia's room in this Italian cult gem: Il Profumo Della Signora In Nero). Apart from highlighting the odd references 1. this film seems inspired by Polansky's "Rosemary Baby" 2. this film seems to have inspired Polansky's "Le Locataire" 3. Mimsy Farmer seems a name inspired by Mia Farrow (even if it can't be as Mia is only 18 days older than Mimsy!) and that I think that this film is quoted in Society( B Yuzna, 1989). I would say the last scene CAN be taking place in the real world. "Other" scene settings seemed strangely odd, because they ARE dreams. Note how the wall paper of the 'seance' is the same as the wrapping of a box with Silvia's friend's ashes. The latter is a DREAM. Which points to the last odd reference: Mulholland Dr : I think one can work out which scene is a dream and which not (as in David Linch's film). And there might be this thing where in the end Silvia (while dreaming ?) COMMITS SUICIDE. And the other thing that all the characters come back in the final sequence. Because it's the "real world"!!!! NO HAY BANDA What I could not explain though: why does Silvia keep dreaming of the Italian flag ?
As one might surmise from the above synopsis, "The Perfume of A Lady in Black" sure ain't your average, straight-down-the-line safe, conventional and predictable humdrum terror-tinged mystery thriller; instead it's an extremely surreal, disorienting, surprise-laden inside out edge-of-your-seat "Repulsion"-style psychological mind-twister flick that in its own deceptively bent and low-key way proves to be one exceptionally powerful and disturbing scarefest. Francesco Barilli's steady, subdued direction potently evokes a pungent, nerve-rattling sense of genuine menace from every objects and places (a mirror, a vase, a gorgeously verdant open field, a music box), upsetting the viewer's equilibrium by showing how the serenity of plain old everyday life can be easily disrupted and completed ripped asunder. Nicola Piovani's eerie, elegant, atmospheric score and Mario Masini's beautifully graceful cinematography (the fluid, stately tracking shots are simply breathtaking) significantly contribute to the film's spooky, strange, nothing-is-what-it-appears-to-be enigmatic and ultra-paranoid mood. The jolting and unexpected stinger of a brutal ending packs one hell of a ferocious punch. Offbeat, oblique and often unsettling, this first-rate shocker gets my highest possible recommendation.
Unfortunately, my involvement wavered because most of the action took place inside her head (as best I can figure) and as the story progresses she gets crazier and crazier. For that reason Silvia gets relegated to the role of The Unreliable Narrator. And when a film's makers get too involved in questions of What is real? and What is illusion? my mind goes to the question of What time does whatever is playing in Auditorium 2 start and can I sneak it?
Silvia, played by Mimsy Farmer, is a work obsessed career girl employed in some sort of chemical lab. The exact nature of her work is never explained, but she's one of those women who never wants to take a day off. Whatever she does obviously pays well: she has an apartment in Rome with a living room big enough to play polo in.
Mimsy Farmer is a blonde American actress of the Hope Lange- Vera Miles school who projects practicality and good sense. She made a second career for herself in Italian films like this after parts on this side of the Atlantic dried up. She kept my interest going even when the plot faltered.
Silvia has a Dark Secret in her past, and her life gradually begins to unravel. The atmosphere becomes more menacing, but not a lot happens. It's past the one hour mark before the first irrelevant supporting character gets killed off.
Finally there's a climactic scene where Silvia is confronted by the phantoms of the past and events seem to come to a resolution.
Then (don't worry- I'm not going to give anything away here) director Francesco Barilli seems to crank up a whole new movie in the last few minutes so different in tone (both in theme and execution) that it seems totally unrelated to everything we've seen and heard, even though it does feature the same actors we've been watching.
Imagine if THE KING'S SPEECH had ended with Dr. Logue and King George VI wearing fishnet stockings and dancing "The Time Warp" on the steps of Buckingham Palace. This movie goes off the rails even worse than that.
And that's why the ending of THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK dropped its rating from an eight to a three.
You can see for yourself if you're a Netflix subscriber- it's available streaming now.
OK, my vote is 3, but a 1 given to balance the incredible praise for this garbage movie.
The set design, and cinematography, and music was professional and good. Not great. The acting was decent, but not great at all. The story sucked. So this woman is having some psychological issues because of her mom, mom's lover, her suicide or her killing her mom. What's up with the African voodoo/witchcraft nonsense. And the neighbor, boyfriend, her chemical job. And that freaking cannibal club at the end, coming out of nowhere. I paid attention. Nothing lead to that. They might as well thrown in Christopher Lee as Dracula, or Darth Vader and send her to the moon. Please, I liked the cinematography and the sets, the acting and dialogue was OK enough to watch, but the story and ending is just garbage. Any atmosphere created here, and it's not much is completely thrown away. If they just showed the last scene with the cannibals alone for an hour and half that would have made a better movie.
Go see "Footprints on the Moon" for a great psychological thriller. That is a movie with great acting, atmosphere, mystery, music, cinematography, and story.
Perfume of Black dress whatever title, is garbage.