(Black on White)
(The Artful Penetration of Barbara)
DVD Release Company: Cult Epics (http://wwwcultepics.com)
Length: 80 Minutes
Rated: Unrated (Contains Nudity, Language and Some Violence)
Release Date: September 29, 2009
"What is he doing? Why is he putting on finger contraceptives? Maybe he doesn't want to leave a fingerprint." -- Barbara (Anita Sanders)
The Italian film auteur takes us into the complex mind of Barbara (Anita Sanders). Her journey is a psychedelic penetration of the mind - the artful penetration of Barbara - a double entrende. Being playfully followed by an African-American man (Terry Carter), Barbara's sexual desires run wild and her mind wonders in an tripped out, drug-induced kind of way on the consequences of what her actions could result. Brass's nearly plotless story revolves around sex but he also produces in-your-face social and taboo contexts that are not so subtle.
Barbara is young and adventurous. Her husband drops her off at a park and she wonders the city, stopping at various places, usually sexually relative, and taking public transportation to get to her destinations. She bumps into Carter's character on the subway and from then on, he becomes the follower and the watcher. Barbara notices him and plays out "what if" scenarios in her mind. The scenarios are as abstract as abstract can get with inverted colors to make black white and white black, fast fowarding and slow motion, random instances of nudity and sex and so on. But like I said previously, Brass throws in more than just Barbara's coy thoughts. There are anti-war and anti-Vietnam images that are infamous for even today's standards, incapability between a man and woman who use to be in love and their results and the tabus of black and white affairs in society. All these issues coincide with what Barbara has on her mind. Basically, take every movement, peace, black and woman movement, from the 60's and you have it all in 80 minutes. Brass achieves this but in a comedic way - a cheesy satirical way - that doesn't impact like it should and that isn't a bad thing per say. It relieves some of that tension away from the sex and we think of other things to relieve ourselves - to more important issues that needed to be resolved.
The biggest issue with Barbara is with her husband Paulo. She feels she is useless in the relationship; she feels she has lost her appeal to him and refers to herself as an unwanted "old cow." A great scene to reference the "old cow" is when Barbara enters a salon where old women's heads become heads of cows, getting their hair done. Though the effects are outdated, Brass really reveals himself as a bold filmmaker. He can take something, make it comical and still pull off a fairly relevant subcontext. Barbara eventually enters a slit of guilt as the playfulness with her African-American companion continues. She wonders what will Paulo do if she gets caught - what will be his reactions or his inactions. Will he care? Will he break down? Paulo comes off as stoic - an automaton - in Barbara's mind. However, this is not the case outside of her thoughts and she realizes this.
Each in-the-mind scene has its own music written and performed by the band Freedom, a brit-pop group with trippy pre-new wave sounds. Each scene becomes an individual music video; the band is there with our female and male lead prancing around in the city. The lyrics, sometimes loosely, coincide with what is on Barabara's mind. It becomes the background music to her Alice in Wonderland head mindset. There are points when it boggles the pace, making the barely existing plot seem to stop in its footsteps.
The DVD image comes straight of the 16mm print. This gives it the grindhouse look with every cigarette burn and imperfection imaginable. The full screen 1.33:1 ratio cuts off some of the opening and ending credits, mashing them down just out of view of the viewer and making them unreadable at certain times. On the back of the DVD case, it reads the aspect ratio as 1.85:1 but to my knowledge, 16mm print is only in 1.33:1.
The DVD case and the DVD itself, released by Cult Epics, is very retro, very sleazy and very eye catching with the coloring. For any erotica fan, this would be a purchase on the spot.
I a bit disappointed with the extras. The lobby cards are only stills from the presentation. These pictures a clear and pristine. I wish I could say the same for the feature. There is a trailer for the film and a trailer for another of Tinto Brass's films, Deadly Sweet. What is nice about the scene selection is that it goes by song. For example, if I wanted to hear Freedom's third track in the film, I pick the third scene from the selection.
The overall packaging is a little less than mediocre. I dig the look; it is the core of exploitation and it really speaks about Tinto Brass's erotica situations. The extras lacked severely and the image speaks for itself with the 16mm print. The overall Tinto Brass film is nothing less than expected. The man who did Caligula does not disappoint with his earlier work. This experimental film can either be hated or loved and this reviewer loves it. This film stamps and documents history while addressing the black and white relationship issue and then some. Unique and diverse camera uses really make what could have been a dull and pointless film into a fair of social and sexual complexities.