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Just Jaeckin
Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Jeanne Colletin, Christine Boisson
Writing Credits:
Emmanuelle Arsan (novel), Jean-Louis Richard

Her name evokes visions of lush sensual discovery and the extremes of forbidden ecstasy. She is Emmanuelle, and these are the films that changed the look and feel of erotic cinema forever. The incomparably beautiful Sylvia Kristel stars in this landmark adult trilogy that begins with the sumptuous Emmanuelle, continues with the explosive Emmanuelle 2, and climaxes in the daring final chapter Goodbye Emmanuelle, which is available only in this collection.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 5/13/2003

• “The Joys of Emmanuelle” Featurette
• Trailer
• Poster and Still Gallery
• Sylvia Kristel Bio

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Emmanuelle: The Emmanuelle Collection (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 7, 2003)

With porn now almost a mainstream industry, it’s hard to recall how shocking so much of it was in the Seventies. However, without the products of that era, I doubt porn would have become as accepted as it now is. Flicks like Deep Throat made it semi-legit.

While not as graphic as movies of that ilk, the Emmanuelle series also helped pave the way for more acceptable sexually oriented movies. These flicks seemed like a big deal but now look downright quaint.

The first in the series, 1974’s Emmanuelle introduces us to the title character (Sylvia Kristel), a model and resident of Paris. Her husband Jean (Daniel Sarky) works in Bangkok and she flies to meet him. We learn that he married her because she makes love the most and the best.

We also find out that Emmanuelle doesn’t have a lot of sexual experience outside of that with Jean. She seems somewhat repressed and Jean encourages her to experiment. Slowly she starts to do so and the movie follows her sensual journey from Milan to Minsk.

Oh wait – that was Rochelle, Rochelle, the Emmanuelle-style flick parodied in Seinfeld. Emmanuelle certainly deserves mockery, as it provides a really silly and borderline offensive affair.

Frankly, the whole “sexual journey” theme is nothing but ludicrous tripe meant to excuse all the banging. The plot of Emmanuelle is loose in the extreme. Essentially the story consists of people having sex or talking about sex. I guess we’re supposed to see character growth in Emmanuelle, but really, she just appears more jaded at the end of the flick. She’s not an inherently different person, though I suppose she probably finds it tougher to sit comfortably after all that action.

All of this means that Emmanuelle becomes very tedious quite quickly. It lacks substantial plot and presents thin characters, all of which becomes nothing more than an excuse for some artsy sex. Emmanuelle appealed to Seventies audiences because it offered sex in a less tawdry way than typical “X”-rated flicks, but that doesn’t mean it gives us a more compelling story.

Actually, the whole “sexual liberation” theme leads to some distinctly distasteful sequences. Toward the end of the movie, an older man named Mario tries to expand Emmanuelle’s horizons, and this basically means she does everything he says. Those actions include a sequence in which scungy street cleaners gang rape her. We also watch a nude Thai girl smoke a cigarette via her vagina. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday!

Emmanuelle provides some decent nudity at times, but otherwise, it feels like a badly dated piece of soft-core porn. The sex isn’t very interesting, and the story doesn’t generate any interest whatsoever. Emmanuelle deserves mention as the flick that spawned all those cheesy flicks on “Skinemax”, but that doesn’t make it an interesting movie.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Emmanuelle appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I expected little from this transfer, which meant I felt shocked at how good it looked.

Overall sharpness seemed satisfying. Given the nature of the production, the film displayed quite a lot of slightly soft focus. The movie often went for a somewhat gauzy look, which meant that the picture rarely achieved terrific definition. Nonetheless, this clearly was intended, and the movie showed no unintentional issues related to detail. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and the movie seemed to lack any edge enhancement. Since Emmanuelle hits its 30th birthday soon, the DVD suffered from a surprising lack of print flaws. It looked a little grainy on occasion, and the scene at the squash court showed some minor debris, but otherwise the film exhibited virtually no forms of source defects.

As with the soft focus, colors seemed stylized to match the story. The film used overblown whites and moody browns much of the time, and those tended to desaturate the hues. Nonetheless, the tones looked appropriately accurate and full based on the stylistic constraints, and when allowed to prosper, the colors were lively and distinctive. Blacks were acceptably deep and rich, and shadows mostly appeared well defined. Again, the form of photography resulted in a little less definition than I otherwise might expect, but I forgave that since it seemed to result from the original shoot. As a whole, Emmanuelle presented a very satisfying image.

In addition, the monaural soundtrack of Emmanuelle held up very well over the years. The DVD included both the original French mix and a dubbed English rendition; I only screened the former. That meant I couldn’t really judge the intelligibility of the speech, but dialogue always seemed natural and well defined. I noticed no edginess or other flaws related to the lines, as they came across nicely. Effects played a pretty minor role in the proceedings, and they appeared slightly thin at times. However, they betrayed no distortion or anything that caused problems, and they seemed acceptably concise throughout the film. Music sounded surprisingly lush and full. The score was bright and rich and showed pretty solid low-end for a flick of this vintage. Nothing about the soundtrack knocked me out, but it seemed quite positive given its monaural limitations.

Emmanuelle comes with a few extras. First up is the most significant, a new 16-minute and 37-second featurette called The Joys of Emmanuelle. This program combines movie clips and interviews with director Just Jaeckin, producer Yves Rousset-Rouard, actor Sylvia Kristel and adult film historian David Flint. We learn how Emmanuelle went from book to movie, the casting, Jaeckin’s approach to the material, Kristel’s take on the role and her mother’s reaction, budgetary issues, locations and other subjects like their general memories of the shoot including Jaeckin’s arrest in Thailand. Despite the program’s brevity, it packs a lot of good information and seems like a nice little synopsis of the film.

Some smaller bits complete the disc. In addition to its American trailer we find a poster and still gallery with 141 images. After a selection of shots from the set, we get many ads and ancillary materials like book and video covers. Lastly, the Sylvia Kristel biography provides a nicely full examination of the actress’s life and career.

Although Emmanuelle proved to be very popular and influential in its time, the movie doesn’t hold up well at all. It suffers from little discernible story, thin and lifeless characters, and nothing much to make it entertaining. The DVD presents surprisingly strong picture with solid audio and a minor set of supplements. If you want to get a feel for pornographic history, Emmanuelle might merit a look, but as a film, it’s dull.

Note: one can currently only purchase this edition of Emmanuelle as part of a three-DVD set called “The Emmanuelle Collection”. This package also includes sequels Emmanuelle 2 and Goodbye Emmanuelle. Given the release patterns of Anchor Bay, I won’t feel surprised if these eventually come out separately, but as of October 2003, they’re available solely via this set.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4714 Stars Number of Votes: 70
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