Source: Blu-ray (UK)
Sadly, just as I’m writing this, I only now found out that star Sylvia Kristel died on October 18th this year from cancer, which she’s been fighting for some years now. I hadn’t really mentioned her performance on the initial draft of this capsule review, but she really was a magnetic actress. Emmanuelle is something of an exploitation classic – which could perhaps be an oxymoron in cinematic language – directed by erotic/exploitation auteur Just Jaeckin, who also broght us films like “The Story of O” and “The Perils of Gwendolyn in the Land of Yak-Yak” with a nude Tawny Kitaen (most sought out by the hormone-ravaged around the time of the flashy late-eighties Whitesnake videos). To my nearly utter shock (although I admit I don’t know what I was expecting), Emmanuelle is an extremely well-made, well-written, well-shot (it’s actually very gorgeous) piece of cinematic erotica. The substance is… well, substantial enough – the plot does delve into the characters, their feelings and motivations, their lies and deceits (mostly to themselves), as our leading lady Emmanuelle, played by Sylvia Kristel, begins to break free from her seemingly open husband to explore her own sexuality. The plot follows Emmanuelle in a series of trysts that never seem to be thrown in for need of a specifically timed exploitation sequence. The film has a nice rolling motion to is and everything seems at ease, which makes it a pretty easy film to watch, along with the phenomenal photography and the beautiful set pieces – and actresses. The matters of the characters do not go into so dark a territory as In the Realm of the Scenes, in fact, this is pretty light erotic fare, not comedic, but not broodingly harsh, either, as the aforementioned film. On its release in 1974 it was actually an international hit, grossing high earnings in France and becoming infused in Japanese pop culture (to a degree), but until I’d seen it, I’d thought most of the film’s original popularity was to do with a case of international curiosity. No, in fact, likely the reason Emmanuelle brought softcore exploitation into the realm of the chic in the mid-seventies is because it really is I chic film. And an enjoyably chic film, at that.