Black Angel (2002)

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema and this month’s theme, Tinto Brass Extravaganza!

Wowzers did things get started in a real weird way last week with Cheeky! That movie created all sorts of incredibly confusing thoughts and feelings. Taken on its face, it’s about this drop dead gorgeous woman and her sexual exploits from Italy to England. Taken on a slightly different level, it’s more of a sexual fairy tale of twists and turns in a world where EVERYONE is getting laid. Maybe, just maybe, it really is meant to be taken on that face value based on its popular English title. On the other hand, its Italian title is a play on the words for transgress and betray. Using that, it’s (potentially) a much darker movie than you think. It’s not something to compare so much to the popular Emanuelle films, but instead a much more immature porn film.

So to fix that, this week, we’re looking at Black Angel – an erotic Nazi film.

I sure know how to pick ’em, don’t I, Enemaniacs?

To be honest, this is a much more serious film. It’s based on a novella called Senso by Camillo Boito. Boito himself was an interesting guy having been an architect, critic, and novelist. Senso took place during the Third Italian War of Independence in 1886. Basically, you have a bored and unhappy wife of a old man aristocrat. She decides to set out to explore her passions. The story was adapted a few times. First, in 1954, where it expanded on some of the side characters the novella couldn’t so much. That’s an extremely well regarded film in Italian cinema. The third, and most recent, is a 2011 opera.

But, we’re here to talk about the middle adaptation – 2002’s Black Angel. This is an adaptation with a twist. We move from the late 19th century Third Italian War of Independence to the end days of World War II. Still heavily Italian, but featuring a love affair between our lead character, Livia Mazzoni, and an SS officer from Germany. This film did receive acclaim for its costume design, and, considering this is over two hours long and the only film in the Tinto Brass Blu Ray boxset that I couldn’t get the English audio track to work, it’s also subtitled so… Fancy!

Also, it’s my 45th birthday today so I’m glad I got myself some Nazisploitation. I should maybe reconsider my life during this full-on midlife crisis. Sigh.

I really hand it to this film’s opening. First, it starts in black and white. The credits play over a thunderstorm and a static shot of a statue and a castle in the background. It looks like a film out of the 30s or 40s. It has a beautiful orchestral theme that also feels very classic to go along with the visuals of the credits. Beyond the credits, the movie begins in 1945, the 23rd year of the Fascist Era. An aristocratic woman is ushered to a car and driven away with her maid lovingly waiving goodbye. This is Livia Mazzoni and she’s married to a senior member of the Ministry of Popular Culture.

I love everything about the opening to this movie from the visuals, to the music, to the style. I also love what will happen after this opening. She’s being taken to Venice to see her lover Helmut Schultz, an officer in the SS. This driver is also expecting her to soon be done with her lover in favor of taking him as a lover. She just wants to get to Venice and conclude her business there.

The movie then goes to vibrant color as Livia thinks back on the past. Livia thinks to a time in which she went to see a play where a guy is talking to a crying woman and the whole place is adorned with Nazi flags and Fascist Italy flags. This performance is about a woman who is cheating on this man and she’s crying because she’s admitting to it.

The performance is interrupted by three masked men with guns who are calling for national liberation from the fascist government and from the partnership with Hitler’s Nazi party. They leave after dropping off some leaflets. The audience begins to slowly pick up some of the papers to read it. A blonde woman in the front row picks up one of the papers and begins laughing uncontrollably at it. She is with a clearly evil looking blonde Nazi officer.

When an Italian soldier demands she give him the leaflet, she refuses. She tells him he could get one of his own. She’s not giving him anything. He calls her a whore. The evil looking Nazi stands up and says she’s with him. He says that the leaflets are allowed and no concern of his because everything is now allowed! So he tears to front of the blonde girl’s dress off exposing her boobs to everyone. She continues to find this hilarious.

Livia is curious about this man. We learn that Schultz is part of the German Film Unit stationed in Venice. He was promoted to his position for getting a beautiful woman into bed with Joseph Goebbels. Livia was turned on by his raw evil magnetism. She said that she never backed away from that animalistic desire she felt for him. That night, she explains how her husband was only ever aroused for sex if she kept her stockings on. When he requested she not get fully undressed for bed as she was about to remove her stockings, she knew what this meant.

This movie is shot incredibly well. This is a totally different movie than last week’s. This is mature, very highly produced in terms of set design, camera angles, and composition of shots. This is also a mature woman, and not a young girl. She knows better what her own sexual actions and appearance can give her. There is a masterful shot of Livia coming out of the dressing room knowing her husband wants sex.. Her entire demeanor has changed. She’s confident, in control, and they mixed that with him talking about the young, virile, blonde Nazi she was turned on by earlier in the evening.

Meanwhile, while we watch Livia stride down this hallway of mirrors that also split her visage as if to tell us she’s multi-faceted as a woman with desires, her husband is explaining that they must prepare for the aftermath of the war and the expected downfall of their own failing government. The expectation is that German will take over Italy as Mussolini falls. They need to be pleasant and willing to work with the Nazis stationed there for their own survival.

And then there’s the reverse shot.

This is an excellent reverse from the incredibly sexy shot of Livia coming toward us. In the mirror, we’re seeing basically what her husband is. It’s almost acting as a thought bubble. Her shadow, is looming over the bed. I interpret this in a couple ways. One, it’s the specter of their former passion when he wasn’t only turned on by her stockings. Her reflection being smaller shows perhaps a diminishing reality. Second, it’s her sexual aura looming large in the bedroom. She is still vibrantly sensual and desirable. You could kind of mix that with the first interpretation of her both being present and a ghost of the past as she explores her other extra-marital options.

As her husband explains the score with the failing Italian government and the impending, potential, rule of the Nazis, she’s both turned on and just vacantly listening to the old man. As he begins to make love to her as she looks out from their balcony, she learns that Schultz has many vices. He’s an amoral sort. Which… Honestly, the guy is a Nazi. I can safely assume he’s amoral.

Anyway, she joylessly gives her husband the release he was wanting. He mentions how wet she is – that’s because she’s got that amoral Nazi on the brain. He goes to bed immediately, and she finishes herself off. I give it to this movie that it took over 10 minutes to get to the first “sex” “scene”. By this time in Cheeky!, I had already seen a butthole.

The next day, Livia witnesses a young man get hassled by Italian soldiers. Before she can get away, Helmut Schultz spots her and follows her as she walks away. She is both turned on by his persistence and terrified of him. Again… Dude’s a Nazi. It’s okay to be terrified by him. He eventually catches up to her as she arrives at home. He asks to speak to her husband, but he’s not home. She unlocks her door and tries to go inside and leave the young lieutenant outside, but he grabs her, rushes inside and begins kissing her.

She’s into it. I guess it’s one of those “be careful of what you wish for” scenarios. He does tell her she’s free to make her own decision about what he wants from her. That’s when she gives in. Shit, she even told him she loved him.

The movie goes back to the present where we return to the black and white times. Livia and her driver getting stopped by a roadblock by the resisting Partisans fighting against the fascist regime. Her driver, Ugo, handles the partisans by giving them an affidavit saying he’s legit and not one of the bad fascists.

The movie goes to color again as we return to the past. Tinto Brass shows up as a director of a film about a guy whose wife cheats on him, and the husband kills both her and her lover in a movie theater before committing suicide. The film is celebrated as a great achievement of the regime. There’s a tense after party moment when Schultz asks what honor is – since that is the main theme of the film being made. So, yeah, the Nazi doesn’t know what honor is. There is discussion of killing for love and how husbands kill lovers, not the other way around. Ugo, almost to boost his buddy, Livia’s husband, says that husbands are much more useful in the world. Everyone is talking about lovers where Livia wants to bang that Nazi’s balls off.

Livia has a headache and is escorted to the actress’ dressing room where she has some pretty darn good pills to kill the pain. Schultz comes along. They go into the dressing room and, when left alone, make two things – out and plans. Ugo, suspicious of what’s going on, goes into the catwalk and is able to spy on them from above. When Sunday comes, they meet where they said they would and Schultz shows the man running this place these watercolor paintings of sexual acts. This isn’t exactly doing anything to calm Livia’s loins.

The watercolors depict acts that are considered deviant in the fascist government. The artist fled to America to avoid persecution. The art dealer is a baptized Jew and when he quotes a price, Schultz threatens to report him for lowballing him with a “Jew price”. It’s as if Schultz wanted Livia to see these “perverted” pieces of art and also act the big man by threatening to report a Jewish man to the authorities. It’s clear Schultz is cold, but I also think his cold cruelty is a tool to turn Livia on.

After leaving the art dealer, they go out to the alley and fuck, but are interrupted by Italian soldiers ushering criminals to be detained and the wife of one of these men being gunned down in the street. Livia asks Schultz what could have happened to cause this. He only responds that the war is what caused this.

There is something interesting to this movie that adds some complexity. Schultz is a Nazi, yes. He is cold and kind of cruel, yes, yes. Yet, he sold the watercolors to get money to leave the war for some time. He’s not exactly a fan of what’s going on in the world at large. He’s kind of happy to take what he can, but seems as though there is this odd, twisted moral system in him. He even says he wants to forget the rules and the uniform. He’s maybe not into the dirtier bits of what his uniform does and represents. He’s into Livia’s dirty bits, though.

And then there’s Livia. She’s not exactly impressed with his uniform or his threats to turn in the Jewish art dealer. She’s drawn to his virility. He’s exciting and attractive. He’s not an old aristocrat. I think she likes how he paid attention to her when they first saw each other. There’s an animalistic attraction to the two of them that isn’t because he is a “bad” guy. He treats her well. Yes, he does things that the power of his uniform grants him, but he’s not exactly a Nazi monster.

At least to this point.

His uniform is gross, but he almost seems to be play acting. He really does seem to want to not be part of the war. In fact, it’s even stated later when Livia’s husband, Carlo, mentions that he is going to a meeting with Schultz to discuss money for film rights and that he’s not so sure about the young SS officer. He’s lost his faith in Hilter (that’s a good thing). He doesn’t want to be a hero. He’s more of an unscrupulous playboy than anything.

However, as Carlo is about to leave to go to his meeting, he goes to kiss his wife goodbye and finds a bite mark left behind by Schultz.

Livia and Schultz continue their affair. Livia is not guilty for her cheating. She doesn’t know if Carlo suspects an affair, but she thinks that maybe he does but is willing to turn a blind eye as long as she goes along with what he wants. But she is definitely getting what she wants when Livia takes some control over Schultz. She offers to pay for all his cost of living including his rent, his gambling debts, and his bribes to keep him from the frontlines of the war. He’s basically a kept man now and she has her little boytoy.

Well then…

Later, Livia is having dinner at home with Carlo, Ugo, and another man talking about how Mussolini and Hitler’s time is coming to a close and they need to start using their power and money to back people who can help them avoid the consequences of the collapse of the regime. The third guy talks about how they could push some money around so it ends up in the hands of the Partisans. They ask about Schultz since he has a big part in the film company’s doings in Italy.

Ugo says that Schultz cannot be trusted which angers Livia. Ugo also loves her and he wants to warn her that Schultz will betray her like he does other women and his own countrymen. Livia needs to warn Schultz that her husband and his friends are likely going to betray him. This worries her more because he is late to their next rendezvous. In fact, he doesn’t meet her at all. She goes at night to try to find him and the landlady says he may be with another woman. He finally comes home saying he’s got some gambling stuff to do. She tells him she’s got quite a bit of money on her so she can get him out of whatever trouble he has. This… excites him.

Then a mash-up of A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut breaks out.

Pirates, topless belly dancers, buttholes, nude quartet, live band, nuns, guys jerking off, women pissing into pots, strap-ons… This is the Tinto Brass I’ve been waiting for. For a second there, I was convinced he hadn’t made this movie. Apparently, this is where Schultz had to go to do his gambling thing – a weird sex party. High class government official wives are often found here. Someone offers her some cocaine and the potential for lesbian sex. She takes the cocaine, and passes on the lesbian stuff. But the hostess of this weirdo sex party is not to be deterred from getting a taste of Livia’s livery. (I don’t know what that means)

Schultz burns through 80,000 Lira quickly. The hostess says he’ll get one more chance. One toss of the dice, he wins, he gets 200,000. She wins, she gets Livia. She wins. She decides to go town on Livia right there on the table where cards were just being tossed. This gets the whole party going to the point they want to crowd around and watch this woman and Schultz fuck Livia. In a mass of bodies, sights, and smells, Livia passes out. The next morning, she must do the walk of shame to get out and go home.

On her way home, she thought about this hostess, Elsa. Schultz kept gambling and losing. Elsa kept staking him money. She began to realize that Elsa probably has some claim on him. Perhaps some reality is starting to set in.

It’s not just reality about Lt. Helmut Schultz. It’s about maybe everything going on. The war is creating a fog of despair. Rebels are fighting against the fascist regime. That regime is also rotting from the inside out. Death on the street is an every day thing. The rich are carving out how they can avoid consequences after taking roles in the dying regime. It’s a shitty world right now. Livia has played a part in this shitty world.

Livia was out all night with Schultz because Carlo was in Salo for the night meeting with the people who are planning their path after the war and the inevitable fall of the regime in Italy. He came back early instead of staying there the whole time he planned because time is running out. Things are getting very bad with the Allies closing in on all sides. He shows her money and papers to help her along. They don’t know when they will see each other again because Carlo has to stay behind due to his hedging of bets on both sides of this internal battle.

Livia begins mourning the loss of both of her lives. One, the old life of comfort with Carlo. Two, her newfound passion. She sends for Schultz to meet her so she can tell him what Carlo is asking her to do. She expects Schultz to tell her that she can be with him. He, instead, tells her that Carlo is right. She must leave for Asolo because it’s getting dicey. He also wants to desert, but he needs money. She asks how much. He says at least a million. She goes to get it.

Schultz is possibly showing his true colors.

As he smiles at his accomplishment to woo a never ending supply of cash, Livia gets the cash she was given by Carlo. As he laughs about all this cash in his hands, Livia kneels and blows Schultz. She says giving him money made her hot. Partly because she feels she could control him with money.

Livia eventually ended up in Asolo where all is peaceful, but too peaceful for her. She felt alone and lost. She hadn’t heard from anyone in over two weeks. Ugo arrives and gives her two letters – one from Carlo and one from Schultz. Schultz writes that he paid doctors to get him out of the war. Livia asks Ugo to take her back to Venice. She wants to see Schultz. To get what she wants, she promises Ugo that she’d go to bed with him for getting her there.

Getting back there was hard. They were stopped by Partisans. Ugo’s car broke down. They eventually had to hitch a ride back with soldiers who talked about how the army was falling apart. Everyone is taking either a role in the Nazi army or joining with the Allies. However, they get there.

There’s this beautiful moment in the back of this army truck where Livia is so happy to be getting back to Venice where she can see her love, but the soldiers with her in the back are singing a song about being tired of war and just wanting to go back home. It really shows the difference between her and Ugo’s class and the people fighting the war. The soldiers died, got wounded, and will come back forever changed. The rich will get their way out of any trouble and likely not have much consequences in the long run.

Livia gets to Schultz’s apartment and uses the key he gifted her with to go inside. She finds him there with another woman. It’s a heartbreaking series of shots of her face from happiness to be reunited with him to the growing suspicion and confusion to the pain of seeing that was not faithful to her as she thought. He says terrible things about her being old and terrible and how her money made it possible for him to be with this younger woman.

She backs up to leave, but knocks over a vase revealing herself to Schultz and this woman. He belittles Livia in front of the younger girl. He tells her that she got what she wanted – sex for the money she gave him. He never loved her and he only was giving her his services for the money she was willing to pay him. It’s pretty terible.

He goes back to the younger woman who tells him that her cunt is on fire.

Livia walks alone on the streets of Venice feeling like a total fool. She sees a drunken old man on the street screaming to the skies that he wants to die. I wonder if it is just my mind overthinking it or if it is on purpose that this drunk man screaming that he wants to die as he marches toward the Nazi office looks like Benito Mussolini. Either way, Livia goes to Nazi base as well and asks to speak with the commander. A man tells her it is no longer a garrison but the headquarters for the SS. She meets with the commander and she gives him the letter from Schultz revealing he is a deserter. She’s told that she signed the lieutenant’s death order. She is fine with this.

She returns to her hotel where Ugo is waiting. She tells him about how she hates the man she loved. She also says tonight is Ugo’s lucky night. But first, they are going to go where the SS is going to execute Schultz. They watch him be shot. At first, she is horrified. When Schultz’s lover comes running in to cry over his dead body, Livia wants Ugo to fuck her right then and now.

The film ends with the words “26 March, 1945. A month later, the war would be over.”

This is a very, very fine film. It’s incredibly well shot, and Anna Galiena is great in this movie. She was in her 50s when the movie was made and she’s beautiful and very sexy in the role. I love how this movie twists and turns on you. Livia is not as impressed by Schultz as the Nazi officer. However, he is cruel and mean despite being mostly a pacifist even to the end. He wasn’t lying about wanting out of the war. He just would do really shitty things to get it. Livia overestimated her power over him due to her own desperation to have good sex again.

The backdrop of World War II is well used as well. Everyone and everything in this movie is dour and sad and dying. Livia is trying to resurrect herself, but you know that it really can’t be possible. It’s a bleak movie with a tinge of hope that the war’s end is just a few weeks away. Livia is likely to escape a great deal of whatever the aftermath could bring the aristocratic class, but it’s tough times coming for Italy as they recover from a bad time in their history. It’s there to feel, but Livia is just trying to recapture something that makes her feel alive again. This is really good stuff.

It’s time to look ahead to the next B-Movie Enema article. For the third entry of this month, it’s time for an anthology. Tinto Brass Extravaganza gets into the back half of this theme month with a movie that is called Fallo! in Italy and Private in English. Be back here in one week to check out what that drama is all about. Follow B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter and make sure to subscribe to the B-Movie Enema channel on YouTube to check out the various vids that get posted there.

Until next week, maybe don’t fall in love with a Nazi.

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