In Our Opinion


By • Oct 30th, 2012 •

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Director Tinto Brass, in his dotage, is in dire need of a reassessment of his cinematic output. Long dismissed as a pornographer whose most famous works are cult-fave SALON KITTY and the infamous and oft-maligned epic CALIGULA (a film that, once completed, was taken away from him and re-edited into an ugly jumble that garnered dismal critical reviews) Tinto Brass is in fact an auteur whose pre-CALIGULA output is clever, visually dazzling and astonishingly original.

Take for example his film NEROSUBIANCO (the translation means “Black on White,” alluding to the interracial subplot, but the movie was titled ATTRACTION, and a few other names, for the English-language markets). Ushering in a kind of Italian New Wave style of filmmaking, it marries Fellini’s surrealistic “bravura” style with the modern music video.

NEROSUBIANCO reads as a meditation on sex and repression, like an alternate take on Luis Bunuel’s BELLE DE JOUR. Anita Sanders plays Barbara, a woman whose quiet sexuality masks a deep-rooted sexual repression, and like most repressed people, she is obsessed with the subject. A victim of her Catholic upbringing, she secretly hungers for a torrid love affair. She gets no help from her unresponsive husband, Paulo (Nino Segurini). A chance meeting with a handsome man she meets randomly in a park (Terry Carter, referred to only as “the negro” in the film and as “the American” on IMDB) culminates in a series of dream sequences revealing that, despite her aversion to interacting with the man, she can think of almost nothing else.

Her encounter with this stranger who seems to be following her awakens her fascination with the idea of forbidden love, manifesting in a series of kaleidoscopic visions, sometimes beautiful, often erotic, and always startling. Along the way are allusions to war, racism and violence, seen both in dream sequences and through the use of stock footage showing disturbing war imagery.

Who is Barbara, and what is at the root of her obsession? Is it her husband she desires or this perfect stranger—or is it her own self, unbound from the shackles of her psyche—that matters most? The use of experimental photography (a couple of dream sequences are shot in black and white and reverse the positive and negative images) adds immeasurably to this wild, post-“Summer of Love” collage. Like most auteurs, Tinto Brass does a “Hitchcock” in NEROSUBIANCO, playing a gynecologist fitting Barbara for a diaphragm (in keeping with his later reputation as a purveyor of smut films). The groovy soundtrack is provided by a British band called The Freedom, seen and heard throughout the proceedings.

The new restoration of the film was carried out by Alexander Tuschinski, utilizing material from the personal archives of Tinto Brass, which added several minutes to the running time.

Would you see a film described as a cross between BELLE DE JOUR and HEAD? All I can say is, you should. A badly cut, muddy print with poor sound quality has been floating around on video for awhile. Those in the Los Angeles area will soon have their chance to see this rare piece of cinematic Pop Art on the big screen.

The 2012 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles (HRIFF) is including Nerosubianco as part of a retrospective of highlights from the 1960’s and 70’s output of Tinto Brass, including world premieres of restored and extended versions of LA VACANZA and THE DROPOUT, both starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero and unseen in the U.S. for over three decades, as well as the very rarely screened shorts TEMPO LIBERO and TEMPO LAVORATIVO. Held at the New Beverly Theatre December 3-5, the HRIFF 2012 will also be showcasing new documentaries on the makings of these films, and present Q and A’s with director Brass and film scholar Alexander Tuschinski, and panel discussions of the director’s body of work, featuring friends, film scholars, and other guests TBA. For more information log onto the HRIFF website (

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One Response »

  1. I don’t know why but I was never able to watch a Brass film. His actresses are certainly highly attractive. I’ve tried but I give up at some point in the film. I have no explanation.

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