• Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: November 7th, 2018.
    Director: Just Jaeckin/Francis Giacobetti
    Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky, Christine Boisson, Umberto Orsini, Frédéric Lagache, Laura Gemser
    Year: 1974/1975
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    Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 - The Movies:

    Just Jaeckin’s 1974 softcore opus Emmanuelle proved a worldwide box office sensation, inspiring a few official sequels and plenty of unofficial knockoffs. Umbrella Entertainment brings the first two films, starring the beautiful Sylvia Kristel, to Blu-ray. Here’s a look…


    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 2:

    This sequel (known in its native France as Emmanuelle: L'antivierge and elsewhere as Emmanuelle, The Joys Of A Woman), made a year later by director Francis Giacobetti (who would go on to produce Emmanuelle IV in 1984).

    When the film beings, Emmanuelle (Kirstel again) is on a boat to meet up with her husband (Umberto Orsini of The Antichrist), Jean, in the thriving Hong Kong of the mid-seventies. This being the sex film that it is, of course there are no available cabins and so she winds up bunking in a room full of other women. While fast asleep, her slumber is disturbed when the woman in the bed beside her tells her that in the past she was raped by a trio of Filipino men and, that she enjoyed it. As such, she can’t sleep. What happens next? Shockingly, Emmanuelle and this woman have rad lesbian sex.

    Once she lands in Hong Kong, Emmanuelle connects with Jean and they have the long awaited sex that they’ve both been wanting for ages now. Emmanuelle gets comfortable in Hong Kong, befriending Anna Marie (Catherine Rivet), who just so happens to be the sexy stepdaughter of one of the women that Jean has been entertaining in her absence. When Emmanuelle finds out that Anna Marie has yet to be deflowered, she makes it a bit of a personal mission to see that this is taken care of and quickly remedied.

    From there, Emmanuelle has sex with a lot of people. She gets it on with Anna Maria's dance teacher, screws a guy in the locker room of the polo club she attends (he’s got some amazing fake tattoos), and has a super sexy acupuncture session before then pretending to be a hooker in a brothel where she teaches a group of sailors all that she knows about the carnal arts. Eventually she and Jean take Anna Maria to a bathhouse, where three Thai women help them out. After that, the three of them escape to Bali where Emmanuelle and Anna Marie decide to give Jean a steamy surprise.

    This second film is just as lushly photographed and beautiful to look at as the original picture is but it benefits from stronger pacing and a bit more of a story. Granted, like the first film, this second picture isn’t exactly deep in terms of its narrative structure (it’s only slightly less superficial than the original film) but the friendship and obvious attraction that develops between Emmanuelle and Anna Marie helps to flesh things out and hold our interest and not just because we know that eventually they’re going to screw. The character development is stronger here, and the performances, while not exactly Oscar-worthy, handle this without any trouble at all. In fact, everyone that appears in front of the camera does a more than acceptable job not just with the sex scenes, but with the occasional dramatic interludes that are tossed into the mix as well. On top of that, the acupuncture scenes are just plain weird, so the movie gets bonus points for that, and there’s a strange subplot of sorts involving a young hunky man who enjoys airplane propellers and a weird animated scene that actually kind of goes into hardcore territory on a technical level, some oiled-up flexing Asian guys, .

    Interestingly enough, one of the masseuses in the film is played by none other than the ‘Black Emanuelle’ herself, Laura Gemser. Check it out.

    All in all, a more than worthy sequel to the original film. Yeah, fine, it might not break a whole lot of new ground, but it gives those who enjoyed the first film more of what made it work – sexy ladies in sexy situations, lush photography, exotic locations, swanky music and an enjoyable, free-spirited attitude towards sex.

    Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 - The Blu-ray:

    Both films are presented by Umbrella Entertainment on Region B locked Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc with a healthy bit rate. The first picture is framed at 1.66.1 and the sequel at 2.35.1 widescreen. Don’t go to either of these movies expecting the kind of eye-melting fine detail that the best Blu-ray transfers can provide. Both of these movies were intentionally shot soft, giving things a dreamlike look at times, and as such, detail doesn’t really astound – but again, that’s how these movies were meant to look in the first place. Still, this definitely surpasses previous DVD editions of the movies despite the presence of what might be some light scanner noise. There’s no print damage here at all, however, the transfers are pristine in that regard, and color reproduction is quite nice. Black levels are good and skin tones, which are nearly constantly on display, also look nice and natural. The second film, more than the original, does appear to have some noise reduction applied to it, giving things a somewhat waxy look.

    Audio options for both films are supplied in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono in your choice of English or French with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems to report here. The movies play better in French but both the French and English language options for each feature sound just fine. Levels are properly balanced and the tracks are free of any hiss or distortion. The films’ respective scores also sound very good here, though the French tracks do sound just a tad stronger and fuller than their English counterparts.

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

    Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 - 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. Surprisingly enough, the sequel is a considerably better film, more effective not just in its depiction of stirring eroticism but also in its narrative structure. Both films are beautifully shot and impressive on a visual level. The Blu-ray double feature release from Umbrella Entertainment is disappointingly devoid of extras but it does give both films an appreciable high definition presentation. Recommended for fans.

    Click on the images below for full sized Emmanuelle & Emmanuelle 2 Blu-ray screen caps!