Feb 24, 2014


After recently re-watching and reviewing Italian auteur-pornographer Tinto Brass’ avant-garde counter-culture flick L'urlo (1968) aka The Howl, I felt it was about time to dig deeper into more of the filmmaker’s pre-porn experimental works, with the Nerosubianco (1969) aka nEROSubianco aka Attraction aka The Artful Penetration of Barbara aka Black on White aka Barbara the Yes Girl being the most provocative, if not thematically and aesthetically putrid, choice. Presented by Jewish American arthouse pornographer Radley Metzger aka Henry Paris (Camille 2000, The Opening of Misty Beethoven) via his distribution company Audubon Films under the less than charming title Black and White (which was later changed to the suavely sleazy title of The Artful Penetration of Barbara), Nerosubianco—a work produced by Dino De Laurentiis (Dune, Hannibal) that was not surprisingly almost universally panned by critics, thereupon falling into relative obscurity fairly fast after its release—is a sort of avant-garde agitprop flick that is part ‘collage film’, part musical, part incoherent quasi-commie celluloid manifesto, part surrealist/avant-garde cinema tribute (with references to everyone from Luis Buñuel to Federico Fellini to Jean-Luc Godard) and all counter-culture puffery that manages to reconcile the works and film theories of Sergei Eisenstein with the spastic surrealism of the Panic movement and Fernando Arrabal and the carnal celluloid cheese of the sexploitation subgenre. A thematic and aesthetic heterosexual equivalent to great Guido auteur Alberto Cavallone’s hit miscegenation-themed lesbo artsploitation flick Le salamandre (1969), Nerosubianco is proudly ‘progressively’ degenerate counter-culture crud about a gorgeous goombah gal who cruises the streets of Swinging London while her husband goes sightseeing elsewhere, only to become infatuated with a lone American Negro. Although not very popular with the general public upon its official release, Nerosubianco was a big enough hit when it premiered at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival that it inspired some of the big wigs at Paramount Pictures to fly auteur Brass all the way to Hollywood to discuss with him adapting Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novella A Clockwork Orange (1962). Of course, it would ultimately be Stanley Kubrick (and, well, Andy Warhol also previously directed a strange static version of the novella in 1965 under the name Vinyl) who directed A Clockwork Orange and Brass would ultimately enter the less than dignified realm of erotica (and later working with Malcolm ‘Alex DeLarge’ McDowell on the epic erotic celluloid abortion Caligula (1979)), but at least with Nerosubianco he demonstrated that at some point in his somewhat uneven filmmaking career that he was a semi-serious artist. Rather unfortunately, the film also proves that Brass is a cultural and spiritual cuckold who gets off to the idea of black brothas banging his beauteous countrywomen. 

 Set to twelve mostly retrograde quasi-psychedelic tunes by the British rock band Freedom (a group made up of members of Procol Harum), Italian broad Barbara (Anita Sanders, who got her big break in acting appearing in Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) in a small uncredited role) walks aimlessly yet contemplatively around London whilst her wanker four-eyed husband Paolo (Nino Segurini) plays by himself elsewhere. Ultimately, Barbara’s urban journey in for-once-sunny London begins becoming interesting when she catches the sight of a yank Negro (Terry Brown, who is probably best known for his role in Jack Hill’s blaxploitation Foxy Brown (1974)). Indeed, Barbara has an acute case of jungle fever, but she has not been ‘penetrated’ hard enough by the perverse propaganda of counter-culture cultural cuckolds to give into dipping into the mud. Instead, Barbara engages in a seemingly schizophrenic psychodrama of the particularly pathological sort revolving around anti-war, anti-fascist, and anti-bourgeois subjects that always have some sort of pseudo-Freudian angle. While the anti-bourgeois Barbara is at a lavish bourgeois spa, she thinks to herself, “Who knows why people who are afraid of pubic hair are the same people who hate Negroes, Jews, homosexuals, beatniks, and hippies.” Little does Barbara realize that in only a couple decades, the same homo, heeb, and dirty hippie lovers that run the porn industry will also become afraid of a full healthy bush of genital hair. While in a beauty salon, Barbara sees all the women getting their hair done turn into large goofy cows, thus demonstrating the bourgeois babes are nothing more than beautified bovines with a lot of money to waste on nothing (or something). Later in the day, Barbara is approached by a little commie Chinaboy who gives her a couple of Mao’s red manifestos (which, as Barbara discovers after opening the book, is really the English translation of commie frog filmmaker's Jean-Luc Godard’s script of La Chinoise) and the black man returns the favor for her by giving the East Asian pinko a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, thus demonstrating his solidarity with dominating cracker bitches and the black power movement. 

 Throughout the day, Barbara sees a number of bizarre things like a father throwing his infant out the window and said infant’s mother subsequently committing suicide as a result of her homicidal hubby's insane act of infanticide.  In a scene that seems like a poor man's take on a Carmelo Bene film, a dorky vampire priest appears with his buddy the Grim Reaper and the Mummy and preposterously declares, “Encourage people to make love because it’s dangerous, but it’s not forbidden, even though more dangerous than encouraging them to make war, so from this moment dangerous and forbidden pictures of love scenes will be substituted by pictures dangerous but not forbidden of war scenes,” while an Eisenstein-esque collage (aka “pornography of violence”) featuring stock-footage from various ‘fascistic’ wars appears to inanely drive home Brass’ hippie philistine point. In another one of the countless random rants featured in the film, Barbara narrates how sexual violence is big in the USA, stating, “U.S. incidents of sexually related torture are reported in the cases of women. The torturers shove as many fingers as possible or a foreign object into the vagina and twist and tear brutally. This is also done with the anus. A tube is inserted into the anus and warm water driven into the prisoner under very high pressure. In the case of men, beatings on the genitals with long thin sandbags have frequently been reported. One trade unionist was beaten so much that a testicle was driven up in his body.” Meanwhile, the American Negro sinisterly laughs at an image of a white woman’s clean shaven pussy. Brass reveals the reason for her interest in the jigaboo gentleman when she complains regarding her hubby Paolo’s apparently contrived coital and puritanical tactics, “He always wants silent, darkness, mystery…but what mystery? That’s the whole trick…they invent mystery where there isn’t any. This is their great discovery; keep everything hidden, keep everyone in the dark until mystery breeds mystery and fear.” Luckily, black never truly gets on white as Barbara is far too bourgeois to allow herself to be defiled by an American Negro (though surreal dream images of such a scenario briefly appear), so the black buck assumedly goes home with blue balls and an even greater affinity for brother Malcolm. 

 Despite featuring miscegenation-championing images and emasculating songs lyrics like, “Free your women, let them do…anything and everything they want to do” featured throughout the film, Nerosubianco thankfully never seals the dirty dago deal in terms depicting explicit jungle fever between a Guido gal and a black brother, though the film whimsically wallows in foreplay regarding such sad sentiments. Undoubtedly, compared to auteur Tinto Brass’ subsequent avant-garde agitprop piece L'urlo (1968) aka The Howl—which although similarly playful, is a much more grim and grotesque work featuring next to nil hippie happy-go-lucky bullshit—Nerosubianco is a somewhat more lighthearted work that ‘teases’ in a similar type fashion to the filmmaker’s later erotic works. Undoubtedly, with its curious combo of big tits and asses with equally redundant holocaust footage, not to mention its flagrant fetishization of interracial sex and various other forms of modernist sexual debauchery, Nerosubianco is now ironically what the mainstream establishment is all about. Indeed, nowadays even a music video featuring sickly slag Miley Cyrus seems more edgy than Brass’ film, but then again the only intrinsic value Nerosubianco has today is as a piece of novelty celluloid waywardness created during a terribly delusional zeitgeist when anything seemed possible, even a multicultural utopia orgy where impotent hippie homos and suavely dressed American negroes are the foremost liberators of the world. Advertised with the it’s-too-retarded-to-be-true tagline, “a motion picture for the stoned age” when it was released in America by Radley Metzger under the rather unfortunate Toback-esque title Black on White, Nerosubianco also acts as a sort of intriguing historical celluloid artifact that demonstrates just how wrong counter-culture types were about their ‘progressive’ theories and how they, and only they, could and would ‘liberate’ society from injustice, poverty, racism, and self-control. Of course, with the birth of millions upon millions of bastard mulatto babies and various other mixed miscegenated beings, the apocalyptic arrival of AIDS, the total selling out of the hippie generation, and the virtual total death of the Italian film industry since the film's release, Nerosubianco now seems as eclectically naïve as films come, even putting the more fanatical of Eisner era Disney films to shame, but that is one of the things that makes the film so surprisingly entertaining. Indeed, a rare film that namedrops Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, black power, and Karl Marx that manages not to totally suck, Nerosubianco, with Brass’ two other frenzied free-association films from around the same time Deadly Sweet (1967) aka Col cuore in gola and The Howl, is a superlatively spastic celluloid pop-art piece that really reminds the viewer how screwed up the brains of the Baby Boomer generation were.

-Ty E

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