Joy (1983)

Claudia Udy stars in a well written erotic drama for director Sergio Bergonzelli. Severin R1 USA.

The Film

Joy is a model in contemporary Paris, drifting in and out of relationships and casual sex with a number of men, something she attributes to the disappearance of her father when she was young. She is seduced at an art gallery by an older man, Marc and they begin a relationship but Joy's life is turned around when she travels to Mexico for a photoshoot and the images are used in a controversial advertising campaign - she becomes an overnight sensation and travels to America to make a television series, on her return, her relationship with Marc is strained and he starts to make strange requests.

Adapted from a series of French erotic novels written under the pen-name of Joy Laurey, Joy (1983) is an erotic film very much in the Em(m)anuelle mould. Like Jaeckin's famous 1973 film, Joy is typically French, boasting langurious pacing and a quite simple plot, punctuated by a number of sexual scenes. The jetsetting storyline is perhaps more akin to the Italian Black Emanuelle series, although the script here maintains a continuous narrative rather than the often very episodic Joe D'Amato films.

What storyline there is, is quite effective at building character and covers some interesting ideas including feminist debates over naked images. It is certainly more than just time filler between the sex scenes and despite the slow pacing the film never drags. The sex scenes range from quite brief conventional sex to an incredibly elaborate nightclub orgy with dozens of particpants (although unlike most erotic films of the era the sex is purely straight - Joy's sapphic leanings being saved for the sequel Joy & Joan (1985)). In true French cinema style the whole story is imbued with a touch of natural surreality and the film includes a number of very strange sequences to give it a dreamlike quality.

It is clear that no expense was spared in the production of Joy and as well as location shooting in Mexico and New York as well as Paris, the film prominently features a lot of high technology and contemporary fashions (which would have made it seem very up to date for the time but now make it a wonderful time capsule of the early 80s). Director Sergio Bergonzelli and cinematographer Rene Verzier (Rabid (1977)) have a very good eye for the sex scenes and handle these particularly well, meaning that conventional sex scenes are genuinely erotic and even the group sex scenes never seem crass, while the rest of the film is strongly directed, helping to emphasise that the storyline is more than just padding.

Otherwise little known American actress Claudia Udy takes the lead role here and gives a surprisingly good performance, able to convince both in the dialogue scenes as well as the sex scenes. There are no recognisable names in the rest of the cast but the acting is generally strong and although attractive and easy on the eye - the extras in the nude scenes look like real people rather than a cast of porn-stars.

The film-makers had a tough job with Joy avoiding it becoming a tepid romantic film or a crude pornographic effort, but they succeed and aided by Sergio Bergonzelli's direction and an obviously generous budget, the end result is an enjoyable storyline with some very erotic sex scenes, along with a touch of typically French surrealism. Recommended to fans of the classic era of softcore erotica and of interest to fans of French cinema in general.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one particularly well known
Directed by anyone interesting? Sergio Bergonzelli - a lesser known Italian director who worked on the early Spaghetti Western Jim il primo (1964) and the Italian giallo Nelle pieghe della carne (1970)
Any gore or violence? None
Any sex or nudity? Numerous female topless and nude scenes, both erotically presented and more matter-of-fact. Various sex scenes including two large group sex scenes although always staying very softcore and with no obvious frontal male nudity. Some brief s&m whipping in a nightclub scene.
Who is it for? Fans of the softcore erotica of the 1960s and 70s will find plenty to enjoy here and with the good storyline it should appeal to fans of French cinema in general.

See Also:
Joy and Joan (1985) A rather less effective sequel starring Brigitte Lahaie as Joy, fleeing her troubles to begin a lesbian tryst with a tour guide.
Emmanuelle (1974) The original French erotica classic which although similarly languriously paced, never captures the surreality that makes Joy so essentially French.
Black Emanuelle Series (1975-78)
Laura Gemser stars in this multi-film spin off from the Emmanuelle films as a globe trotting reporter. Much faster paced than Joy the films soon descended into sleaze including XXX cuts.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is very good with excellent colours and detail.
Audio French mono track, sounds good.
Subtitles English, translate the French throughout - error free.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Reflections on Joy - an interview with actress Claudia Udy who played 'Joy' with some very interesting information. (10 minutes)
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Not otherwise available on English friendly DVD.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is French language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 3rd November 2010 - part of 'Naughty November'.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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