Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 27th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 2002
Director: Tinto Brass
Writers: Tinto Brass, Camillo Boito
Cast: Anna Galiena, Gabriel Garko, Franco Branciaroli, Antonio Salines, Simona Borioni, Loredana Cannata, Erika Savastani
DVD released: December 31st, 2013
Approximate running time: 128 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital Stereo Italian
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: The wife of a prominent member of Fascist party begins a torrid affair with a manipulate German lieutenant.
Key collaborators on Black Angel include cinematographers Daniele Nannuzzi (Santa Sangre) and Massimo Di Venanzo (All Ladies Do It, Cheeky!) and yet another exceptional score from composer Ennio Morricone who had previously worked with Brass on the film The Key.
Though Black Angel is based on Camillo Boito’s novel Senso, the same source novel that Luchino Visconti sourced for his 1954 film also tilted Senso. They are hardly mirror images of each other. With that being said, there are more than a few differences in regards to these two films adaption’s then the eras from which they are sent in. Most notably how Brass’s film delves deeper into politics and of course oozing over with explicit sexuality that has all but become synonymous with his cinema legacy.
Narrative wise Brass has employed an interesting way to divulge what is occurring onscreen. Periodically throughout the film there are black and white sequences which alternate with the predominately color sequences. And it is precisely these black and white moments that make give this film its durable backbone. Also, the black and white sequences are set in the present, while the color sequences are all memories from the protagonists’ torrid past. To further accentuate the differences between these two narratives the majority of the decadent behavior takes place in ‘living’ color, while the more dramatic moments that ultimately decide ones fate take place in glorious black and white.
As mentioned before all of the hallmarks that one would expect from a Brass film are all on display in Black Angel and as usual Brass creates many extraordinary compositions throughout. One of this film’s most memorable moments is a orgy party sequence where the protagonist is hanging out with her Nazi lover and his cohorts. This sexually charged moment of debauchery at times has an almost Federico Fellini feel to it.
When it comes to casting Brass films are known more for their voluptuous leading ladies. To my surprise that is not the case with Black Angel which has arguably the best cast that Brass ever had the chance to work with. The entire cast all very good in their respective roles, especially this film’s two main characters Anna Galiena (Nothing Underneath) in the role of a bored housewife named Livia Mazzoni and Gabriel Garko in the role of her lover a Nazi lieutenant named Helmut Schultz. The scenes they are in are filled with a tremendous amount of heat. One more moment of praise for this film’s leading lady Anna Galiena who does not rely heavily on her natural assets as previous Brass leading ladies. In fact, she dominates all the more dramatic moments in the film. Ultimately Black Angel is Brass’s most satisfying mix of erotica and melodrama to date.
Cult Epics presents Black Angel in an anamorphic widescreen that frames that image in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. All previous home video release for this film has also been framed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It should be noted that Tinto Brass’s preferred aspect ratio is 1.66:1. With that being said, this slight adjustment of the aspect ratio does not appear to be intrusive as the image never looks cramped. Colors and flesh tones look accurate; details look crisp and though black levels for the most part fare well there is definite room for improvement in this area. There are a few very mild instances regarding compression and edge enhancement has been kept in check.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Italian and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Italian. The differences between the two are not that major with the 5.1 mix has a slightly fuller sound. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced throughout. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 26 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), a photo gallery which has music from the film playing in the background, a promo reel for the film (8 minutes 7 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), an option to listen to Ennio Morricone’s complete score for the film and a ‘Making of’ featurette (25 minutes 25 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles) that includes plenty of onset footage and comments from director Tinto Brass and the cast. Overall Black Angel gets a strong release from Cult Epics.