When Emmanuelle was released in 1974 it caused uproar in France. President Pompidou tried to ban it, effectively catapulting it into the year's "must see" category of films and into history as the point at which soft-core pornography dallied with the mainstream and conceived a new kind of arty erotic cinema with equal appeal to both sexes. As a result it acquired the patina of a classic of its kind and spawned a whole series of sequels. Based on Emmanuelle Arsan's erotic novel and dubbed "the longest caress in French cinema", it tells the slight tale of a young expatriate woman in Thailand, encouraged by her husband--and practically everyone she meets--to explore her sexuality through free love and the pursuit of fantasy. It also launched the career of Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel in the iconic title role. Never mind that the original character was Eurasian. Kristel's European good looks and lissom figure earned her a unique kind of big screen immortality.
It's dreamily filmed by director Just Jaeckin and director of photography Richard Suzuki, with lots of simulated, soft-focus sex, much of it between Emmanuelle and her female conquests. Only an unpleasant rape scene in which she is the prize in a Thai boxing match, acknowledges that sexual fantasy has its dark side. The picture survives as a period piece from a more innocent time: the men, with their dated moustaches and tight pants, lack only medallions, and there's some deathless dialogue: "You like it [masturbation], don't you?" "Well yes, but I haven't had breakfast..." Even so, parts of Emmanuelle, made in the pre-AIDS era, have an almost quaint charm. True, the languorous escapades of the jetsetters are juxtaposed with rough images of the Thai sex trade, revealing among other things exciting new ways to smoke a cigarette. But Kristel's insouciance is often hypnotic.
- An Erotic Success
- An Interview on Emmanuelle
Region: A/1 & B/2
Duration: 105 minutes
Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Jeanne Colletin & Christine Boisson
Language: English dub, French with English Subtitles