Emmanuelle (1974)

Here’s one more title off my cinema bucket list. One can never be that sure what you are in store for when watching a soft core movie, and while this erotic tale by Just Jaeckin doesn’t set the world on fire with its originality, it is certainly intriguing with the story beats that it follows. While there is a clear line of thought guiding the narrative through all the various sexual encounters that Emmanuelle has in the story, it was a very positive thing to repeatedly be surprised by the paths that the story ends up choosing to get to the steamy horizontal mambo.

Being encouraged by her husband and circle of friends to find a lover to preoccupy herself during her stay at Bangkok, Emmanuelle, amongst other things, is shown impulsively rushing off to the jungle to have a lesbian affair on an archaeological dig with a woman she has only known for a day, as well as agreeing to try out an older man, that she initially was repulsed by. The latter offers some incredible turn of events as it has Emmanuelle being led to an opium den where she gets raped, which is then quickly followed by a visit to a gambling hall where an impromptu boxing match is arranged, with Emmanuelle made the prize, a turn of events that arouses Emmanuelle enormously when her chosen favorite wins. It’s all very French.

I have to admit, I was expecting a quite different type of a movie from what I actually got. But there is no doubt that the sexual content and tone must have been very revolutionary upon its original release, having much of a bigger impact on the world that’s hard to understand by today’s standards if you’re not familiar with the surrounding cultural context of the period. Especially the notorious smoking a cigarette out of  your vagina scene in the bar must have made more than a few people stare blankly at the screen. On the more negative side, I was expecting Emmanuelle to be much for assertive and, well, boldly curious than what she ended up being: one that actively needs guiding and encouragement to seek the high levels of unexplored pleasure that she is promised. Still, the open and light hearted attitude to sex and the overarching free spirit mentality in seeking partners was quite nice and enjoyable. I wish there had been more scenes like the early Marie-Ange masturbation scene, which was very well done and managed to both feel very genuine and sensual as well as erotic, rather than your average and tad bit cliché, written for porn scenario.


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