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December 29, 2005

Mimsy! Mimsy!! Mimsy!!!

Two Men in Town/Deux Hommes dans la Ville
Jose Giovanni - 1973
Kino Video Region 1 DVD

The Perfume of the Lady in Black/Il Profumo della Signora in Nero
Francesco Barilli - 1974
Raro Video PAL Region 2 DVD

The Black Cat/Il Gatto Nero
Lucio Fulci - 1981
Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD

A while back, Flickhead did a piece on Mimsy Farmer. He primarily wrote about her in one of her early films, Riot on the Sunset Strip. The film has become something of a staple on the Flix cable channel. While Farmer starred in four films for American-International, I didn't become a fan until I saw her in her European film debut. I was a Freshman at New York University, and around the corner on Eighth Street near University was a movie theater that was actually named the "Art" theater. More was playing right around the corner from the dorm I was living in. I probably saw the preview which is what intrigued me in the first place. The name of director Barbet Schroeder meant nothing to me. Maybe I was lured by the combination of a Pink Floyd soundtrack and some "psychedelic" imagery. In any case, I saw the film, twice in a row. I'm not sure how I would judge More now but the film certainly impressed this seventeen year old guy. I later saw The Road to Salina. I was at an advanced screening of some other film in a theater and figured I might as well stick around to see a second free film. Best of all was Four Flies on Grey Velvet which was also my introduction to Dario Argento.

Since her turn with Argento, Farmer's films virtually stopped getting theatrical releases in the U.S. With DVDs one can do some catch-up with her career. Unlike some actors who have gone abroad, not only has she chosen to stay in Europe, but she has actually learned French and Italian. Much of the work has been with journeyman directors, although Farmer did work with Marco Ferreri, Raoul Coutard and Roger Vadim for her last performance to date. The films I saw on DVD recently are probably more representative of Mimsy Farmer's film career throughout the Seventies.

Two Men in Town is the third and least interesting of the three films Alain Delon made with Jean Gabin. Delon plays an ex-con who can not escape being under suspicion, especially when his girlfriend, Farmer, works at the bank next door to where he works. Gabin is the advocate lawyer who attempts to work on behalf of criminal reform. Farmer doesn't even appear in the film until almost the last half hour. The film is an interesting look at the French judicial system, but for a much better film with Delon and Gabin, I recommend Any Number can Win.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a giallo with a narrative that even within its context makes no sense, but is visually interesting to look at. The director, Francesco Barilli, has had a sporadic career as both a director and actor. That Barilli has concentrated primarily on painting is no surprise. The set design and use of color are the best aspects to Perfume along with glimpes of Barilli's artwork. Farmer is haunted by the ghosts of her past and several friends and acquaintances meet untimely deaths. The DVD interview with Barilli sort of helps explain what he was attempting to do with this film. Perfume was produced by Giovanni Bertolucci, Bernardo's cousin.

In the opening credits for The Black Cat it actually reads "freely adapted" from Edgar Allen Poe. Even with a couple of illogical plot points, this is actually one of Lucio Fulci's better films. Farmer is a photographer in a small English town that is terrorized by a killer cat. Patrick Magee is a creepy medium who goes to the village graveyard to record conversations with the dead. Fulci films lots of close-ups of eyes, but credit for the film's success should be shared with animal trainer Pasquale Martino and a very talented stunt cat. One can only hope that the rights snafu that's holding up a DVD release of Four Flies on Gray Velvet is resolved soon. Mimsy Farmer is more fun to watch as the deceptively innocent looking bad girl.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 29, 2005 01:30 PM