Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 29th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1974
Director: Francesco Barilli
Writers: Francesco Barilli, Massimo D’Avak
Cast: Mimsy Farmer, Maurizio Bonuglia, Mario Scaccia, Jho Jhenkins, Nike Arrighi, Lara Wendel, Aleka Paizi, Renata Zamengo
DVD released: March 22nd, 2011
Approximate running time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis: A young woman suffers hallucinations related to a tragic event from her childhood.
When one thinks of Italian thrillers, the image of black gloved killers lurking in the shadows often springs to mind. And while not every Italian thriller is bound to these aforementioned staples of the genre, very few Italian thrillers since Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew too Much have diverged much away from this tried and true formula.
Content wise the two most obvious influences on Francesco Barilli’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black are Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. In fact, one could go so far to say that Roman Polanski’s cinematic style had the most undeniable influence on Francesco Barilli while making this film. Besides the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, there are also many similarities that can be found between The Perfume of the Lady in Black and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.
Though the film’s narrative structure can be challenging at times, the climatic payoff is oddly appropriate and makes everything that has unfolded become clear. Between the hypnotic visuals, pitch perfect pacing and Nicola Piovani’s (Flavia the Heretic , Footprints) evocative score, the overall style reinforces the fractured state of mind of this film’s protagonist. From a production stand point this film excels in just about every imaginable way.
Also exceptional are the performances from its entire cast, especially Mimsy Farmer (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) in the role of Silvia Hacherman, the protagonist of this film. This is easily one of the strongest performances of her career. Another performance of note is Lara Wendel (My Dear Killer, Satan’s Wife) in the role of the adolescent Silvia.
Italian cinema has never shied from cloning whatever cinema was in vogue at the time. And while there are certainly many moments in which The Perfume of the Lady in Black flamboyantly flaunts its influences, the end result is a film that more than any other Italian film of the era transcends it’s initial inspiration.
Raro Video presents The Perfume of the Lady in Black in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The source used for this transfer is in very good shape. Colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate and black levels look consistently good. Details look crisp, there are no problems with compression or edge enhancement.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Italian and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English. Both audio mixes are in good shape. There are no major issues with background noise and dialog is consistently clear. Of the two audio mixes, the Italian sounds slightly more robust. Also included with this release are English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free.
Extras for this release include a text based biography and filmography for Francesco Barilli and a documentary titled ‘Documentary: A Portrait in Black’ (26 minutes 10 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles). Some of the topics discussed include other films that he wrote screenplays for like The Man from the Deep River and Who Saw Her Die? He also discusses the inspiration behind The Perfume of the Lady in Black, actress Mimsy Farmer, the film’s score and being type cast into the genre due to the success of this film. Rounding out the extras is a four page booklet with a essay about the film and a bio for Francesco Barilli. Overall The Perfume of the Lady in Black gets a first rate DVD release from Raro Video.