Color, 1969, 80m.
Directed by Tinto Brass
Starring Anita Sanders, Terry Carter, Nino Segurini, Umberto Di Grazia
Cult Epics (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Tinto Brass’ final film of the 1960s is a whirlwind pop art phantasmagoria perfectly situated between his two other free-associative masterpieces, Deadly Sweet and The Howl. Like the former film, this one hurls its protagonist through Swinging London but makes even less of an attempt at a cohesive structure. Slapped with a now-ridiculous X rating and released in America by Radley Metzger’s Audubon Films, this originally played in Europe under the title Nerosubianco (a triple entendre title literally translated as Black on White) but made the rounds under many retitlings in an attempt to find an audience including Attraction, Barbara the Yes Girl and most absurd of all, The Artful Penetration of Barbara. Cult Epics’ release hedges its bets by including both the Attraction and Nerosubianco titles prominently on the packaging, hoping to snag viewers interested in a heady art film or just a simple heavy-breathing slice of ‘60s European erotica.

As you’ve probably gathered, the main character here is Barbara, played by Monica Vitti lookalike Anita Sanders (who mostly went on to obscurity after another major role in La donna invisibile). She gets dumped in the middle of afternoon shopping time in London by her businessman husband Paolo (Beyond the Door’s Segurini). During her wanderings she catches the eye of a handsome black man (Carter, the original Colonel Tigh from Battlestar Gallactica), and the two begin an extended dance of flirtation, sexual fantasy and flat-out psychedelia over the course of the day while a persistent rock band (Freedom, consisting of members from the recently disbanded Procol Harum) pops up at every turn to accompany the action.

That description probably sounds a lot more linear than the way this film actually plays as it intersperses Barbara’s fantasies and the numerous rock numbers with a pre-music video editing scheme that incorporates pretty much every wild idea that crosses Brass’ head. Cow-headed beauty shop clients, vampires, brightly-painted sex clubs and other unexpected elements sideswipe the viewer at every turn, and by the end you’re less interested in whether the couple will actually hook up than what delirious concept Brass will hurl at the screen next.

Another early Brass film nearly lost due to a dissolved original distributor and utter disinterest, Nerosubianco has been salvaged for its official DVD debut courtesy of a 16mm print in Metzger’s collection reflecting the original English language release before it was cut and recut for reissues. Thankfully the quality here is better than you’d expect and the strongest of Cult Epics’ trio of pre-Caligula Brass releases. Colors have thankfully stayed strong, and while the detail is obviously sacrificed by the source element, it’s quite watchable and film-like. Hopefully someone in Italy will salvage the negative someday from the scrapheap to which it’s apparently been consigned, but this is a more than satisfactory way for viewers to discover this wild, wild surprise. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that the Italian version (which was released on VHS at one point) reflects a different, longer edit of the film before Audubon retooled it for American consumption; basically several scenes play out slightly longer, and a few of the montages have some extra beats here and there. A composite version with both language options would be interesting at some point, but it’s no wonder someone hasn’t gotten around to such a daunting task yet. You don’t get a Tinto commentary on this one, but the frenzied Artful Penetration trailer is here along with a promo for Deadly Sweet and a lobby card gallery.