The original soft-core French classic starring Sylvia Kristel, from director Just Jaeckin. Optimum UK R2 DVD release.
Emmanuelle is not the first erotic film, and not even the first Emmanuelle movie (an Italian film Io Emmanuelle
(1969) took that honour) but over time has become one of the most
famous and influencial, spawning an ever increasing selection of sequels and
knock-offs, from British comedies to hardcore Italian exploitation films. However, Emmanuelle's
reputation has outdone the film itself which is sadly a rather lazily plotted
mix of sex and silly dialogue.
young, newly married Emmanuelle travels out to Thailand to be with her
husband, a French diplomat. She soon discovers that the pace of life
for the married women over there is very sedate, and the morals are
very lax. She is shocked when her husband tells her that he expects an
open relationship and that although his wife, she does not belong to him. Soon taken under the wing of some of the older women, Emmanuelle begins to explore her sexuality with men and women...
The storyline is very basic, as
summarised above - although this need not necessarily be a problem,
many erotic films are actually let down by attempts to create an overly
complex storyline that makes the sex seem tacked on. Unfortunately
here there simply seems to be no motivation behind anything that
happens, Emmanuelle's all important tryst with 'Bee' (that one of the characters
bizarrely later calls a dream, despite not being filmed as such) is
apparently motivated by her desire to find a go-getting woman, although
she only meets her very briefly before deciding this. Meanwhile, the
"education" of Emmanuelle by Mario and Marie-Ange seems to be heavily
inspired by Philosophy in the Boudoir,
a 18th Century French text by the infamous Marquis de Sade (filmed a few years previously by Jess Franco), although
here de Sade's sadistic themes are replaced by an undefined notion of
erotic freedom that is never really explained or detailed (the limits oferoticism seem to be having sex with a sweaty boxer) - as a theme
it is further dampened when one recalls that Emmanuelle had sex with
two men on a plane even before coming to Thailand and is obviously not really in need of such liberation. Many of the film's
other "erotic" moments seem to be completely unnecessary, most notably
the infamous scene in a Bangkok bar with some strippers performing,
where one of the characters just happens to be passing through for no
reason. Ultimately the film goes nowhere fast, and the ending
might as well have had a to be continued note under it as it does little to wrap anything up.
the direction, and production are strong and help to keep the film
watchable, and considering the film's popularity over the years, were
sucessful in distracting people from the storyline problems. The production's French origins can clearly be seen in the casual nudity that predominates the film and director Just Jaeckin
shows a good talent for making
the sex scenes erotic yet tasteful (although he does trend
artistic side a little, especially compared to the film's sequels). The
soundtrack is very fitting and the use of real Thai locations gives the
film some authenticity.
film marks the first major performance for Sylvia Kristel in the title
role, a part she would play for the rest of her career, even into the
1990s as Old Emmanuelle.
Attractive with a very European appearance, she never really looks very
animated although it does seem in keeping with her rather bored
character. Alain Cuny (La Dolce Vita
(1960)) is the only major euro-cult actor in the cast as the educating
Mario. The female supporting cast are rather older than one might
expect in an erotic film, mostly in their late 20s or early 30s but it
gives the film a good feeling of authenticity - the women have not just
stepped out of the plastic surgeons.
Slow and langurious, without any attempts to be surreal or dreamlike Emmanuelle
is simply dull in places and never manages to be quite as artistic or
clever as it tries to be - its themes of sexual liberation have
been filmed much better elsewhere, while the later Black Emanuelle
films managed to be far more entertaining and enjoyable to watch - and
more erotic to boot. Of course Emmanuelle
remains a highly influencial film, and was key in altering censorship
regulations in France and later across Europe, being the first sex film
to play in conventional cinemas, to this extent I would recommend it to
anyone interested in cinema history, especially of the more adult
variety - but as a film in itself I would only partly recommend it.
Anyone famous in it?
Sylvia Kristel - would go on to star in a variety of sequels and similar erotic films.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Just Jaeckin - a French director who later shot numerous erotic films including The Story of O (1975) and Gwendoline (1984).
softcore sex scenes and female nude scenes including a relatively
mild rape scene (previously cut in the UK). Generally directed in an
Who is it for?
Of historical interest to anyone interested in the evolution of cinema.
obscure French fantasy erotica from the early 1970s that proves how a
slow and langurious pace, when mixed with a dreamlike atmosphere, can
actually be very effective.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. Picture quality is generally good and as filmed it is a little on the soft side throughout. No noticable print damage.
English mono - sounds fine and the dubbing is decent.
The disc includes:
interview piece with director Just Jaekin and the film's producer.
Light hearted, it is very informative, from how they secured the
rights, to the illegal filming and the film's reception. 30 minutes, in
French with English subtitles.
Original French theatrical trailer. In French with English subtitles.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Previously available from Anchor Bay US, and in a cut UK disc, both are now out of print.
to be fully uncut. The print used is French.
Highly influencial, this film suffers from a rather slow pace and lack of plot but is well directed. Partly recommended.
Good looking and sounding print
with a very interesting interview piece, but sadly lacking the superior
French audio track that was included on the previous US and UK discs.