Emmanuelle (1974) / Drama
MPAA Rated: X for strong sexuality and nudity (An R rated version exists which cuts out some explicit acts)
Running Time: 105 min. (X-rated) / 89 min. (R-rated)
Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Jeanne Colletin, Christine Boisson
Director: Just Jaeckin
Screenplay: Jean-Louis Richard (based on the novel by Emmanuelle Arsan)
Review published March 18, 1998
I remember seeing this film on Skinemax and Showslime about two dozen times as a teenager. I'd stay up as late as it took. It's amazing how little sleep I got on a school night just for a few seconds of titillation. I recently re-watched this film as an adult out of sheer nostalgia value (nudge nudge), but sometimes one should let fond memories be. Whether I enjoyed seeing this as a teen through rose-colored glasses, or merely just a rosy palm, the film just hasn't lasted the test of time with so much more sexier and more explicit films that have been released since.
Jean (Sarsky, The Pelican) marries Emmanuelle (Kristel, Private Lessons) and takes her to his home in Bangkok. He loves her because she's great in the sack, but wants to open her up to explore her sexuality without inhibitions. At first she is awkwardly shy, but later gives in, and when she goes off for a couple of days with a female archaeologist, Jean doesn't know how to feel. Can love and sex be separate in a relationship? Can a couple have extramarital affairs and still claim to love each other? Can someone love more than one person at a time? These are the questions the film tries to deal with.
Emmanuelle caused quite a stir when it was released back in 1974. It's pretty tame by today's standards. It's sort of a cult classic for breaking many taboos, such as lesbianism, threesomes, and fairly rough sex. It usually gets favorable reviews due to being so-called groundbreaking, but if you examine it with a critical eye, it is fairly obvious this is a poor film. The story is anemic, with every scene just a set-up to show another sexual act. The directing is horrible, with the sloppiest editing imaginable, and more padding than a typical episode of "CHiPs".
The film stock is of very low quality, and the cinematography, well, let's just say they try to make their environs look exotic but they only succeed in making the armpit look less sweaty. The film is less than erotic, unless you feel rape and women kissing each others shoulders is hot stuff, and with the exception of a scene where a young Asian girl smokes a cigarette with her womanhood, you've probably seen it all done better by later films.
-- Followed by Emmanuelle 2 (1975), Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977), Emmanuelle IV (1984), Emmanuelle V (1987), Emmanuelle 6 (1988), and Emmanuelle 7 (1993).
©1998 Vince Leo