Black Angel aka Senso 45 March 1945 Asolo, Italy. Livia Mazzion, the attractive wife of a top ministry official, slips into the car of lawyer Ugo Oggiano, Livia’s admirer and her husband’s informer. Livia must reach Venice and her lover Helmut Schultz, a Wermacht lieutenant, as beautiful and accursed as a pagan god, with whom she is having a burning love affair. During the trip she relives the high points of her devastating sexual abandonment gone adrift, one that has shattered her life and her destiny, swallowing her up in the ruinous vortex of a sybaritic and bituminous Venice. The city, in the throes of the final months of the war, is rife with traffickers, officials, nabobs, military brass, sharks and adventurers of every kind. Yet a surprise awaits Livia upon her arrival in Venice, a surprise in which the heroes’ own personal defeats interweave with those public, as historical and political events now seek to settle accounts.
Sex Drama in typical Brass Style
Black Angel aka Senso 45 The marketing for this film refers to Tinto Brass’s much earlier works, The Key, and Salon Kitty. Although Brass made many films since, this referral is entirely appropriate, as the style of Senso ’45 is very much inspired by (if not derived from) these pictures, especially The Key. For the uninitiated: this is soft pornography of the classy kind.
As in both of these films, Brass sets the story during WWII. As in The Key, we have as central character a woman well past her twenties (in this case even well past her thirties) who explores her sexuality. Her lover is a blond SS officer, whose mannerisms recall the character played by Helmut Berger in Salon Kitty. Slightly unusual for Brass is to move from comedic to dramatic territory, but this shift proved useful when it came to depicting the dark and obsessive side of the central relationship.
The casting of Anna Galiena was excellent, and not just regarding her acting abilities. On the one hand, there is no credibility-stretching age gap between her and her husband (as there was between Sandrelli and Finlay in The Key). On the other, she looks fantastic for her age, even in the nude, and thus the sexual chemistry between Livia and Helmut appears quite real, despite the 20 year age gap between Galiena and Garko. Still, Gabriel Garko’s SS officer leaves something to be desired, most simply put: his hair colour does. Garko’s hair had been dyed straw blond, but he does not look like a blond man at all. Perhaps Italians do not have an eye for this, or, more likely, it was too late to change casting and Brass insisted on a blond SS man for this leading part, so he went ahead regardless. This bit of sacrificed realism is certainly at odds with the drama.