This was the only one of the four films Joe D'Amato made in the Dominican Republic in the late 70s that I had not seen until now, the others being Porno Holocaust, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Orgasmo Nero.
Unlike Porno Holocaust and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, which also featured Mark Shanon and functioned as horror / porn hybrids, Sesso nero is more a drama / porn combination, being structured around Shanon's character, himself named Mark, having a terminal illness and reminiscing about his past life and loves whilst also making the most of the time left him. (Long term Shanon fans will here find the nature of his illness amusing and somewhat appropriate; those who don't know what I'm talking about and are sufficiently intrigued to seek out the film will soon know and see for themselves, in unpleasant close-up.)
A dramatic scene that is seen on the television in Absurd. The sex that follows moments later, however, is not.
In particular, one woman, Mira, played by Annj Goren, keeps appearing and disappearing before Mark like a ghost, in the street, on the beach or in place of the dancer in a nightclub act.
While the last allows for some sharp match-cut editing to further express Mark's confused perceptions, it feels characteristic of the film's lack of aspirations that D'amato doesn't attempt any, instead being content to simply intercut between Goren and the other women.
Similarly the rest of the film featuring many unimaginative shot-reverse shot constructions during the dialogue scenes; functional handheld camera during the sex ones as a means of getting closer to the action in a "frenzy of the visible" sort of way, and a fair degree of economical use of the zoom lens in lieu of a more complex camera movement and set-ups.
Note how Shanon's character being half out of the shot does not appear to be down to panning and scanning.
More positively Shanon is given more scope to demonstrate his abilities as an actor as well as a woodsman. He acquits himself credibly, reminding us in the process that like porn performers of the same era in the USA, he was after all an actor to begin with.
At the same time one of the things which hurts the film as a drama rather than a porno, especially in relation to the otherwise comparable Richard Harrison / Susan Scott entry Orgasmo Nero - where the illness took the form of fertility problems - is that the dynamic of its sex scenes still tends to be dominated by the need to give visible evidence of penetration and ejaculation.
Likewise, while one of the two group sex scene might be justified as one of Mark's fantasies the other lacks his coded presence and thus feels more like a straightforward porn scenario of the type where meaningless sex can and does happen anytime and anyplace between anybody.
Even worse, there are also some moments where dramatic scenes look to have been constructed more around the J&B bottle than the actors, as when Mark collapses after being given fellatio by his friend Jack's wife, played by Lucia Ramirez.
Who or what is the real star of this scene?
Though Ramirez doesn't do any champagne bottle opening tricks this time round her admirers will not otherwise be disappointed by her performance, although it is Goren who really steals the show in the sex film stakes. Again, however, her scenes suggest the basic issue with the film, that it's too dark and unpleasant to work as a conventional porn piece, but too much of a porn film to be able to really take as anything else. Whatever the case, the combination is very much D'Amato.
Gratuitous but hopefully safe-for-work images of Ramirez; you can fill in the rest of the picture outwith the frame for yourselves
This sense of the auteur also comes through the fact that a lot of the footage seems to come from the other films in the series or at least invokes a strong sense of deja vu, as does a blink and you'll miss him cameo from writer George Eastman as the owner of the nightclub and an old friend of Mark's. While obviously explicable in terms of laziness and lack of budget this approach works well within the context of the film as, just like Shanon's character, the D'Amato fan feels that old memories are resurfacing and images of the past coming back to haunt him; call it our D'Amato repetition compulsion, that we cannot help ourselves and need more.
In this regard it's also odd however that Nico Fidenco's music, while effective in its own right, doesn't evoke many associations. Perhaps Marcello Giombini should have been given the nod instead?
Not D'Amato's best by any means, but interesting enough to be worth a look.