Friday, December 5, 2008

Emmanuelle (Just Jaekin, 1974)

There was a time when people, human people, didn't aggressively hurl their respective genitalia at one another in a misguided attempt to attain pleasure, and that time was...Emmanuelle. Ah, just the mere hint of that name makes my aura glow. I recommend saying it out loud in an extremely bad French accent for the most desired affect. Anyway, the groundbreaking film by Just Jaeckin revolutionized sex cinema by introducing the erotic travelogue to the world. Cloaking its perverted mission statement in the glossy veneer of a young woman inexperienced in the ways of love and the natural beauty of an exotic paradise, the visually pleasing exercise takes thoughtful thrusting to a higher, more genuine plane of existence. In that, the characters poke each others private parts with a slow, almost methodical grace. The film follows the erotic education of an attractive woman named Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel) and her awkward attempt to transverse the sensuous, non-coup-laden landscape of Thailand in the mid-70s. The naive lass and Jean (Daniel Sarky), her mustachioed husband, have an open relationship, meaning they can swap mouth and crotch-based fluid with whomever they please, just as long as they're honest and forthcoming about their trysts.

The lanky Jean doesn't seem to have a problem groping the bodies of the others without becoming attached. The alluring Emmanuelle, on the other hand, mixes lust and love too easily, and more often than not, ends up heartbroken. That is until she is put under the tutelage of the sexually enlightened Mario (Alain Cuny), a depraved old man who just oozes creepiness. For proof of this, check out his body language as he watches Emmanuelle get pounded from behind by a sweaty Muay Thai.

Now, I've seen Emmanuelle multiple time over the years, but this time around I couldn't help but notice how tame the film actually is. I mean, it has a nonthreatening innocence about it, much like its titular character, who we meet while she is lounging around her chichi apartment in Paris. The way she adorns her feet with orange coloured socks and then heads over to her kitchen, which is also orange, reminded me of Björk in her egg molesting video for Venus as a Boy. In other words, she had a real pixie-ish quality about her.

This opening scene also sets the tone of the film, and moreover, gives us our first taste of the amazing musical score by Pierre Bachelet. The so-called "Theme from Emmanuelle" has a real calming timbre. However, it's the bass and horn piece that accompanied the majority of the film's more titillating encounters that scratched my melodic itch the most.

The key to a successful erotic journey is the lead naked person, and in Emmanuelle that figure is represented by the gorgeous Sylvia Kristel. While at times I found her to be a tad bratty, and her attitude towards the Thai people seemed imperialistic, the slender actress with the boyish hairdo still managed to elicit feelings of agile lustfulness and unchecked desire despite being a mollycoddled slab of bourgeois scum.

The scene where she straddles two passengers on an airplane did well to aggravate my not-so special area by focusing on the garter belt strap holding up Kristel's taupe stocking. After all, it's this area that lures the horny passenger to Emmanuelle's seat in the first place, so it made perfect sense to concentrate on that area throughout the scene.

It's simple touches like this that elevate Emmanuelle to a more artistic level. It's no wonder that it's played the Metro Theatre in Toronto's Little Seoul for twenty years straight. Okay, I'm not one hundred percent sure about that number, but I know it screened there for a long ass time. At any rate, my favourite part of the theatre's facade is its large Emmanuelle banner... trashy yet beautiful.

video uploaded by kitsch2spacea


  1. I saw this. Honestly, found it kind of dull. Like a artsy porno without enough sexiness.

    THat said, it was better then Emmanuel in America, which features hardcore porn and horse fellatio. :cringe: I still wish I had never seen that.

  2. I remember having Emmanuelle in America on my "to see list" awhile back, but removed it the moment you mentioned the horse fellatio scene. (I'm not a big fan of barnyard sex.)