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Emmanuelle, a beautiful young model, travels to live in Bangkok with her aristocratic and older husband, Jean. The couple is tolerant in matters of extramarital affairs, so Jean encourages his wife to experiment in the hopes of her finding a satisfying erotic awakening. But will Jean be as comfortable and tolerant when Emmanuelle disappears into the jungle for months on end?

Emmanuelle: Special Edition
Sometimes the most important films are not the most expected; sometimes they aren’t the ones you bring home to watch with mom. Sometimes a film can support the birth of a subgenre, and break taboos, all the while being too embarrassing to watch in a decent sized crowd. The films I am referring to are, of course, Last Tango in Paris, Midnight Cowboy, and Deep Throat, three motion pictures that changed the face of ‘adult’ features, X-ratings, and the public acceptance of filmed pornography (not to compare the actual quality of the later to the formers). Several un-influential motion pictures later came a little French item called Emmanuelle, which pumped the popularity of art house soft-core, especially in Italy, where dozens and dozens of rip-offs were birthed.

Emmanuelle isn’t a very good movie from almost any angle, but it does have a certain something that makes it hard to hate. The plot is all but non-existent, even by soft-core terms. The narrative skips gleefully from random encounter to random encounter at random times. This episodic nature is most likely due to the fact that the film was based on a book, but that’s not an excuse, it’s just a sign of bad adaptation, as is the glacial pacing. The production values are weak, and the art direction isn’t half as impressive as the filmmakers think it is. Most of the visual razzle-dazzle is due to the Thai landscape, though I’m sure there was more exotic allure to the area when the film was first released.

Emmanuelle: Special Edition
These holes leave us only with decent performances and a genuine sense of sensuality (wow, read that out of context). Most of the cast is pretty low key, emulating the blasé attitudes of elite society, but lead Sylvia Kristel is positively captivating in her utter innocence. Kristel’s tomboyish sexuality is a bit uncanny, but she’s simply impossible to take one’s eyes off of. It’s too bad this English speaking talent never made a career for herself in Hollywood. Director Just Jaeckin (stop laughing) shoots Kristel with real skill, and her many sex scenes (with one obvious exception) are genuinely sexy in a way not common to adult cinema.

Video


Though anamorphically enhanced, and generally groovy, this 1.66:1 widescreen transfer is swimming with compression noise and large grain. The film’s muted colour pallet is often infiltrated by flecks of unintended green, especially in flesh tones, and brighter colours bleed. Softness levels are decent, and edge enhancement is minimal, but the constant noise often obscures fine edges and details. Blacks are pretty effectively black, but whites often revel far too much dirt to be considered more than very light greys.

Emmanuelle: Special Edition

Audio


The Mono French track is the most effective way to watch the film, though the English track does have a few stereo effects throughout. The sound is pretty flat overall on both tracks, and quiet scenes divulge too much white noise. The dialogue is plenty clear, but not exactly clean or consistent. Outdoor scenes team slightly with the sounds of a bustling Thailand, but aren’t very full overall. The film’s score is quite repetitive, but oddly effective, utilizing only a handful of themes as efficiently as possible.

Extras


More interesting than the film is the two medium length featurettes found on this disc. The first, ‘An Erotic Success’, covers the making of the film, as told by most of its important behind the scenes participants. Noticeably missing are any of the film’s actors, but the producers, writer, director, and editor tell the story well, and someone at Lionsgate has done a fine job of putting their thoughts and memories together with a few choice scenes from the film.

The second featurette, the shorter one, is entitled ‘Soft Sell: Emmanuel in America’ (that second part is the title of one of Italy’s most notorious Black Emmanuel adventures). Though not as fulfilling and meaty as Inside Deep Throat, the featurette is a rather fascinating look deeper beneath the glossy surface of the seemingly shallow movie. A varied array of experts let us in on the film’s impact, most importantly being the fact that Emmanuelle was a safe film for women to enjoy. Very informative, and pretty entertaining.

Emmanuelle: Special Edition

Overall


There is a sense of feminist expressionism, and a certain class overall, but Emmanuelle will mostly bore modern audiences, especially those folks looking for, um, less than artistic forms of ‘adult entertainment’. The film has a place in cinema’s footnotes, but it’s not the ‘classic’ the Lionsgate marketing department wants you to think it is. Fans should be happy with the A/V, and the curious might find themselves enjoying the solid extra featurettes more than the film.


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