• Emmanuelle (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 9th, 2019.
    Director: Just Jaeckin
    Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Alain Cuny, Marika Green, Daniel Sarky
    Year: 1974
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    Emmanuelle – Movie Review:

    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 – Blu-ray Review:

    Emmanuelle is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 25GB disc with a healthy bit rate (the feature takes up over 20GBs of space) framed at 1.66.1. Don’t go to this movie expecting the kind of eye-melting fine detail that the best Blu-ray transfers can provide. Emmanuelle was intentionally shot soft, giving things a dreamlike look at times, and as such, detail doesn’t really astound – but again, that’s how the movie was meant to look in the first place. Still, this definitely surpasses previous DVD editions of the movie despite the presence of what might be some light scanner noise. There’s no print damage here at all, however, the transfer is 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 Studio Canal logo that precedes the movie indicates that this was taken from the same source as the European and Australian Blu-ray release.

    Audio options for the film 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 movie plays better in French but both the French and English language options for the feature sound just fine. Levels are properly balanced and the tracks are free of any hiss or distortion. The film’s score also sounds very good here, though the French track does sound just a tad stronger and fuller than the English counterpart.

    Extras start off with Talking About Emmanuelle, an interview with director Just Jaeckin and producer Yves Rousset-Rouard that runs just short of thirty-two-minutes in length. This starts by exploring the relationship between the two men, how Jaeckin was making commercials and how Rousset-Rouard wanted to do ‘more’ with his career. They talk about finding the novel and optioning the film, how Jaeckin came to direct, casting Kristel and what she was like to work with as well as her inherent sex appeal. They also talk about working with Alain Cuny and some of the other cast members, shooting in Thailand, the trickiness invovled in shooting a lesbian scene near a monastery, how people – women in particular – reacted to the film when it was released, the film’s connection (or lack thereof) to the pornography of the time, receiving an X-rating and the fight that came afterwards, the marketing behind the film, getting the picture into certain theaters, the music featured in the film, the significance of the ‘wicker chair’ so often associated with the film, the picture’s massive international success and more.

    Also on the disc is The Joys Of Emmanuelle Part 1, a featurette with Sylvia Kristel, Just Jaeckin and Yves Rousset-Rouard that runs seventeen-minutes. This piece starts off with Jaeckin giving his definitions of eroticism and pornography and explaining what he feels are the differences between the two. From there, we learn how the rights to the book were sought out and how the movie came to be, Jaeckin’s thoughts on the book before filming the movie, how Kristal was found and cast in the feature, her thoughts on acting in the film which she describes as ‘not easy stuff,’ her desire to get out of Holland and explore an international career, shooting the film on location in Thailand and some of the issues that were involved with that (including getting arrested!), Jaeckin’s refusal to shoot a certain scene, the film’s finale and quite a bit more.

    Rounding out the extra on the disc are trailers for Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle 2 and Goodbye Emmanuelle as well as menus and chapter selection.

    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 (and beautifully shot). Kino gives the film a nice presentation with some solid extras. Recommended.

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