Emmanuelle

December 10th, 2009 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

Like the photos of Bettie Page, erotica seemed (strange though it sounds) more innocent a generation ago. Not that the Emmanuelle films are all out porn. Based on the scandalous memoirs of a French diplomat’s wife during his posting in Southeast Asia, they were one of the better-known names in soft porn of the 1970s, and as a series (all four movies have just been released), they’re not at all mucky grot pieces like you might have heard.

The first film sees Emmanuelle (Sylva Kristel, the Jenna Jameson of her day) introduced to the erotic ways of swinging by her liberated husband, artist Jean. The film espouses a national attitude particular to the French of pleasure for it’s own sake, and even without the nudity it’s a pleasant change from the constant Protestant ethic we get from American movies, where any enjoyment is doled out with the equivalent penance of suffering.

Inexperienced and shy, Emmanuelle wants nothing more than for her worldly husband and the other men (and women) she shares a bed with to teach her the erotic arts. In the second, technically superior, film, she’s Jean’s equal, assisting him in seducing the young and beautiful of both sexes to expand the erotic horizons of everyone involved.

The third film shows us the fall-out from the couple’s dalliances, when Emmanuelle falls in love with a man who at first spurns her and who’s presence might spell the end of her idyllic adventures in fragrant French Indochina.

The first film feels a little like a 70s soft porn flick, complete with cheesy dialogue and dodgy editing and camerawork. Later efforts are much more accomplished and — with more nudity and sex that’s artfully shot — more erotic. But the whole series is part of erotic film history and deserves to be seen and remembered.


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