• Emmanuelle

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: March 7th, 2018.
    Director: Just Jaeckin
    Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Christine Boisson
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Just Jaeckin's original Emmanuelle not only did huge box office numbers around the world but it also launched countless knock offs from Italy and the U.S.A. which in turn helped bring the softcore sex film into the mainstream. Based on the supposedly autobiographical novel of the same name from Emmanuelle Arsan, the screenplay from Jean-Louis Richard brought some class to the continuous bumping and grinding while Jaeckin's direction shone the spotlight on the female star that gave the film much of its success - the lovely Sylvia Kristel.

    Emmanuelle (Kristel) is the foxy young wife of Jean (Daniel Sarky), a considerably older French diplomat working out of the embassy on Bangkok where there is a considerably large community of French ex-patriots. Jean knows that his wife has yearnings for things that he cannot provide her and while he does his best to keep her satisfied he isn't particularly upset when a young woman named Marie-Ange (Christine Boisson) comes calling. Of course, she and Emmanuelle have an affair which opens the door for Emmanuelle to explore couplings with anyone else she desires.

    While Emmanuelle is bouncing back and forth between Jean, Marie-Ange, another woman named Bee (Marika Green) and an older man named Mario (Alain Cuny), the butler is having his way with the maid and everyone around the home seems to be giving in to their lust without paying much mind to the consequences. Mario at least ponders the meaning of life and comes up with some interesting theories on why people should enjoy the physical side of life but for the most part, this is a movie about people getting it on with one another - and that's pretty much it.

    Very much a product of its time, Emmanuelle was one of the first films to really bring explicit (at least for the time) sex into mainstream theaters. Granted, by today's standards much of the film seems tame but there are still some taboos in the film such as Emmanuelle's affair with the obviously young Marie-Ange that might not fly with mainstream audiences even if much of what happens occurs off camera. And then there's the scene where the Thai stripper smokes a cigarette with her girl parts and the film does end with Emmanuelle having sex with a Thai man in front of an audience. Mario's philosophical musings show that Jaeckin was trying to give the film an air of intellectualism but there's too little of this and too much of the dirty deed being done for his scenes to carry much weight. At the time this was probably unique, but now it comes off as pretentious and rather silly.

    That said, Emmanuelle is still an interesting and important film, and from a technical perspective it is quite well made. Kristel carries the film and at times she almost seems like a visitor from another planet. She's always shot with soft light and soft focus giving her a very tender appearance and it's not difficult at all to see why everyone in the film longs for her. The cinematography captures the exotic locations quite nicely and if the central focus of the film is on sex we see most of it from far enough away that despite the X rating nothing here falls into the realm of bad taste. If nothing else, Emmanuelle at least attempted and was somewhat successful at legitimizing the sex film for mainstream audiences. If today it seems hokey and more than a little goofy, it still makes for an interesting curiosity item and if it isn't nearly as smart as it wants to be, it does still work even if the noticeably dated elements make it succeed more as camp than as any sort of cinematic masterpiece.


    Emmanuelle is presented by Umbrella Entertainment in its original 1.66.1 aspect ratio in an anamorphic transfer that has been properly flagged for progressive scan playback. The film has always looked fairly soft and that look is maintained on this transfer, which seems to mirror the US release that came out through Lionsgate back in 2007. There's a bit of grain here and there and the odd spot of mild print damage but color reproduction is accurate, if a little flat, and flesh tones look quite good. The softness does mar the detail in a few scenes but it's supposed to so you can't fault the transfer for something inherent in the original photography. No problems with compression artifacts though nor is there any heavy edge enhancement to complain about.

    Audio options are supplied in French Dolby Digital 2.0 or in an English dubbed track in Dolby Digital 2.0. Optional subtitles are available in English. Dialogue is fine if a little flat in some scenes. The French language track sounds a little classier than the English track does for some reason thought that's really going to boil down to personal preference. The score sounds nice and the dialogue remains pretty clear throughout.

    There are no extras on the disc, not even a menu – nice cover art though. None of the extras that were on the aforementioned Lionsgate release have been ported over.

    The Final Word:

    Regardless of its status as a classic, Emmanuelle is still fairly superficial material. It deserves respect for its historical significance and Kristel is easy on the eyes but the film itself is fairly mediocre even if it is enjoyable. Umbrella’s DVD release looks and sounds decent enough, but contains no extra features.