Monday, May 14, 2018

EMMANUELLE (1974) (Umbrella DVD Review)

World Classics Edition

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: All (NTSC)
Rating: R
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: French Dolby Digital 2.0 , English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1) 

Director: Just Jaeckin
Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Christine Boisson

The seminal softcore classic Emmanuelle (1974) is adapted from Emmanuelle Arsan's famously erotic-novel and stars the fresh-faced and freckled ginger Sylvia Kristel (Because Of The Cats) as the titular wife of an older French diplomat Jean (Daniel Sarky), who works at the French Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Arriving in Bangkok from Paris she mingles with the other diplomats bored and promiscuous wives who are bemused at her monogamous views, she is soon befriended by a teenage girl named Marie-Ange (Christine Boisson, Antonioni's Identification of a Woman) who comes to visit her at her home, all the while casually a sucking on a lollipop and masturbating to a picture of Paul Newman in a magazine while they share stories of promiscuous sexual encounters, thus setting the tone for this softcore sexual adventure. The films plays out in a menagerie of softcore, soft-focus sex fantasies with Emmanuelle eventually taking on several new lovers, including a blond archaeologist Bee (Marika Green, the aunt of Eva Green, The Dreaners), and the wife of another diplomat named Ariane (Jeanne Colletin) who also gives Emmanuelle's husband a taste too. Then we have an older man named Mario (Alain Cuny, La Dolce Vita)  whose sexual prowess is canonized by both Maria-Ange ans Ariane, but whom Emmanuelle has little interest in at first, but she's being steered in that direction. 

The film is basically a series of sexual vignettes, it's all very softcore-lite in a nipple-nibbling sort of way that seems tame today, but might have been an erection-making shocker when this made the rounds in the theater in the 70's (or on late night cable where a lot of us caught it!) - and it was distributed by Columbia Pictures! Directed by Just Jaeckin (The Story of O) the film has a gauzy look about it, it feels dreamy and seems to try to rise above it's smuttiness with some artistic leanings, and it does have a certain classy veneer about it with some great looking locations in Thailand - but it's a movie about a woman having sex with multiple partners, make no mistake about it. 

The locations and female stars are attractive to watch, and while some of the eroticism is decidedly underplayed 
and happens off-screen it still manages to squeeze in a bizarre shocker - the image of a Thai stripper smoking a cigarette with her vagina always manages to catch me off guard, it's sort of gross but mesmerizing in a strange stomach-churning way, and you know that woman must have died years ago of cervical cancer cause that's just not right!  

A few other issues I have with the film is that Emmanuelle sets out on this journey, ostensibly to become a better lover for her husband's pleasure (with his consent even), but it looses it's way at the end, not that this thing was a steadfast journey by any means, but the movie comes to a close with Emmanuelle out on the town with infamous old-lover Marco, who thus far has been confirmed to be an amazing lover, but he doesn't touch her, though he does take her to an opium den where she's gang-raped, then taken to an underground fight club where she is the sexual trophy of the winner, it's a strange ending that comes abruptly and doesn't wrap anything up, but I guess no one's watching an Emmanuelle movie looking for proper story, just some softcore fun with plenty of nude women. To that end I will say that Sylvia Kristel is not hard to watch, she was a gorgeous woman and looks great, I can see why this film caught on in the 70's, it's just not one of the better erotic films of that era in my opinion. 

Audio/Video: Emmanuelle (1974) arrives on region-free DVD from Aussie distributor Umbrella Entertainment in anamorphoic widescreen, framed in the original 1.66:1 exhibition ration. The source looks very clean with only some white speckling and very minor print damage, otherwise this is a great looking source. The movie was made with a very specific soft-focus cinematography style, so the image looks soft at times, but this is an aesthetic choice and not a weakness of transfer. Audio on the disc comes by way of original French via Dolby Digital stereo or an English dub, with optional English subtitles. The French has a more organic delivery to it, the English sounds a bit thin, boxy and unnatural by comparison. The score from the late Pierre Bachelet sounds great, sometimes it's jazzy with some minor freak-outs, at times bringing to mind the early Argento scores from Goblin minus the darkness. 

There are no extras on the disc, not even a start-up menu, audio and subtitle options are accessed via the audio/subtitle button your remote - this is the definition of bare-bones.  

Emmanuelle (1974) is a wannabe-classy sort of erotic film, it's not anywhere near the arthouse erotics of Radley Metzger (The Opening of Misty Beethoven) in my eyes, and the sex is not up to snuff in comparison either, but for some reason this one captured the imagination of viewers in the porno-chic 70's and went on to earn buko dollars, going onto inspire a few more legit sequels starring Sylvia Kristel, in addition to loads of Italian knock-offs starring the the sultry Laura Gemser (Women's Prison Massacre). There's even an ozploitation version which I love quite a bit called Felicity (1978) that I strongly encourage you kinky cinema enthusiasts to seek it out. 


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