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Alberto de Mendoza
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I'll be the last person on this earth to deny that "The Perfume of the Lady in Black" isn't a breathtakingly beautiful and stylish viewing experience. Quite the contrary, I agree that Francesco Barilli's film is a masterwork of subtly built up suspense and it's also one of the best films ever forcing you to empathize with the leading character. This film contains numerous astonishing camera shots, genuinely creepy musical tunes and hugely impressive decors, but this material greatness makes it all the more difficult to forgive that there's not a lot of coherence or plausibility in the story and that Barelli leaves far too many questions unanswered at the end of the movie. "Perfume etc.." is similar to and clearly inspired by the earliest work of Roman Polanski; most notably "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby". Exactly like in those two cinematic milestones, the plot introduces a seemingly weak and vulnerable female protagonist that suffers from nightmarish hallucinations and haunting memories of her childhood. She, Silvia Hachermann played by Mimsy Farmer, soon isolates herself from the outside world and notices how her social surrounding, including her boyfriend and friendly neighbors, turn against her. Does these events relate to the voodoo-talk she had with some friends? Or the mysterious circumstances regarding her mother's premature death? Or maybe it's all happening in Silvia's mind alone. Perhaps I was expecting too much of an old-fashioned Italian giallo whereas this film is clearly an occult/psychological thriller, but the slow development of the plot and the absence of a perceptible kind of malice honestly bothered me just a tad bit. After a full hour into the movie, still nothing grueling has occurred and Silvia's inevitably disastrous fate can't be guessed until the very last seconds. The climax comes as a total shock, for sure, but not exactly a satisfying one since absolutely nothing in the development of the plot hinted at such a macabre switch in tones. Nonetheless, "The Perfume of the Lady in Black" is a curious gem of Italian horror cinema, with an overload of talent in front as well as behind the cameras' lenses. It's a demanding film that requires the full attention of all your senses and even then it's likely to confuse you several times. Recommended to well-trained fans of Italian cinema.
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