Last April Showers, I spoke about the third film of Dario Argento's “animal trilogy”, Four Flies On Grey Velvet. This time around, I'm sounding off on another Italian giallo starring Mimsy Farmer.
A scientist (Mimsy Farmer) begins having strange visions from her past involving the death of her mother.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a giallo made by a lesser known Italian director named Francesco Barilli, but he is no less a craftsman than the big guns. Visually, Perfume is a stunning powerhouse and one of those films where every frame is a work of art.
This painting below kept on showing up and all I could think was, WANT!
Between that, The Screaming Mimi painting from The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and all the other artworks that have shown up in my twenty-plus years of watching gialli, I think I'd need a lot of wall space if I were to try and collect them all. Perfume is also helped by a moody score to back up its visuals, as well.
Unfortunately, I didn't find the story as engaging as I usually do. It was certainly not the fault of Mimsy Farmer, as she was as striking as ever, playing her role with abandon. Much like Edwige Fenech, Farmer never shied away from anything. No, my disconnection had to do with there being a lack of mystery for most of the film. It did take a side tangent in the third act that may have been a nod to Roman Polanski's Repulsion, but it still inevitably came around to where I was expecting. That's a real bummer because one of the things I find gialli usually deliver on is an unexpected finish. Even if it is completely ridiculous, I can at least say ‘whoa, didn’t see THAT coming!’ I didn't get that here.
There was a lot of meandering, with Farmer hanging out with friends she should have kicked to the curb long before and awkward sex scenes with her jerk boyfriend that looked more like they were wrestling under the covers, than making love. That's not to say there isn't extraneous stuff in some of my favourite titles, but Argento and Bava's back alleys are just more interesting to me. I thought the parts where Farmer was alone and hallucinating were the best stuff of Perfume. There were a few flashbacks in particular that reminded me of The Shining. I wonder if Stanley Kubrick was a fan of this film.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black was beautiful to look at for many reasons, Farmer not the least of which, but I don't consider it one of the more memorable of the genre.