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Film / Emmanuelle

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Emmanuelle is a 1974 French Erotic Film directed by Just Jaeckin, based off the Erotic Literature novel of the same name by Emmanuelle Arsan.

The film follows Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel), a French expat who lives in Thailand with her diplomat husband, Jean. After returning from a trip to Paris, Emmanuelle becomes swept up with a dark and decadent world overseen by a man named Mario, who teaches her how to be more open with her sexuality. Coupled with her open relationship with Jean, Emmanuelle learns to let lust guide her actions in the future.

Despite being branded as "porn", the original film (and book it was based on) proved to be very popular upon release. It became an international phenomenon, launched Kristel's career and had a sophisticated highbrow reputation during the 1970s. It even had a bit of critical cred—Roger Ebert, for one, professed himself a fan on several occasions.

The mainline series included the following sequels:

  • Emmanuelle 2 (1975): After seducing a woman onboard a freighter bound for Hong Kong, Emmanuelle reunites with Jean once again, and they scheme to seduce the stepdaughter of one of his lovers.
  • Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977): As Emmanuelle and Jean continue their open relationship in the Seychelles, he becomes jealous when she is seduced by a film director. As a result, she eventually leaves Jean for good.
  • invoked Emmanuelle 4 (1984): Fed up after another failed romance, Sylvia (Kristel) gets extensive plastic surgery and becomes a 20-year old woman, who plans to take Brazil by storm in the only way she knows how.
  • Emmanuelle 5 (1987): Now a Legacy Character, Emmanuelle produces erotic arthouse films, and is torn between a wealthy dictator who is obsessed with her work and a young millionaire who seeks to take her away from her decadent lifestyle.
  • Emmanuelle 6 (1988): A Remake of the original film.
  • Emmanuelle 7 (1993): The final installment, which saw Kristel return to reprise the title role. An Older and Wiser Emmanuelle uses virtual-reality erotic simulations to aid her clients' love lives, and helps an old friend rekindle her relationship with a film executive.

The franchise also launched countless sequels, parodies, copycats and even a licensed video game. The most notable of these are the Black Emanuelle (note the spelling) series starring Laura Gemser, and the Emmanuelle in Space spinoff starring Krista Allen, which produced just as many films as the mainline series!

The main film series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Curves: In the original book, Bee was slender, to the point that in the Crepax adaptation she's flat-chested. Marika Green, the actress who played her in the original movie, was not.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: In the original book, Mario is bisexual with a strong preference for other men. In the film, he's portrayed as straight.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Emmanuelle has a lesbian affair with Marie-Ange, who just happens to visit her at home.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Literally.
  • Audience Shift: The original film was intended for a male audience, but ended up attracting many female viewers as well. When the filmmakers were informed about this, the movie and its sequels were marketed with more emphasis on the fact that it was both more high-brow/stylish than a regular erotic film, and that women could enjoy it too.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Seen frequently during Emmanuelle and Jean's trysts.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The Italian spin-off series Black Emanuelle starring Laura Gemser features, among other things, scenes of graphic torture and carnage with cannibals stabbing a nun in her lower parts before devouring her. Not surprisingly, most movies of the Italian series are directed by infamous exploitation masters Joe D'Amato and Bruno Mattei.
  • The Cameo: Kristel shows up for ten minutes in 4, just long enough to have a couple of scenes before she's transformed into a different person.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Pierre Bachelet's soundtrack to the original film is probably the most well known soundtrack to an erotic film ever.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: Emmanuelle and Ariane's sexual encounter on the squash court is pretty much rape, with Ariane as the aggressor, but is treated as if it's consensual.
  • Erotic Film: One of the most iconic examples.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Emmanuelle is told that monogamy is dead and is seduced into having sex with both men and women. Every film has many sex scenes, and virtually everyone does it. Emmanuelle herself must have had dozens of sexual partners in the films..
  • Exact Words: At the beginning of the original film, Emmanuelle tells Jean that she didn't cheat on him while she was in Paris. As she tells Marie-Ange later, she didn't cheat on him in Paris, but she did on the flight back.
  • Fight Dracula: Emmanuelle fights Dracula in 2004's Emmanuelle vs. Dracula.
  • Film Series: Perhaps the most popular erotic film series in the world. It has countless adaptations and rip-offs, seven of which are official.
  • The Film of the Book: The first installment was based on the novel by Emmanuelle Arsan. The sequels... not as much.
  • Kick the Dog: Donna deals with the issue of Emmanuelle's virginity in 4 by... sending her to a biker bar and letting her get raped by one of the patrons.
  • Legacy Character: Done in every film after the fourth mainline installment, as Sylvia Kristel had felt she'd become typecast and stepped away, while a rotating stable of starlets took over the title role.
  • Mile-High Club: In the first film, Emmanuelle has a sexual encounter with a man while on the flight to Bangkok.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Played straight and discussed:
    • In 2, Emmanuelle and Jean seek to seduce Anna Maria, specifically because she's a virgin.
    • In 4, Donna refers to virgins as "the most evil kind" of people, and seeks to make Emmanuelle lose hers by sending off to be raped by a bar patron.
  • Negative Continuity: Owing to its long-runner status, imitators and spinoffs, the series more-or-less resets everything between films. Notably, Emmanuelle's status as a glorified lapdog for Mario in the original film is disregarded in the sequel, Sylvia in 4 (who is played by Kristel) becomes a totally new woman who is also named Emmanuelle, and Kristel returns in the seventh and final theatrical film without any explanation of how she reverted from her younger body three films prior.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Used to a depressing degree throughout the series. Emmanuelle and the people she comes in contact are often rape victims, but either rationalize the act or contextualize it in such a way that If It's You, It's Okay.
  • One-Word Title: Protagonist Title, First Name.
  • Pet the Dog: Marc in 4, who admits to Emmanuelle that he treated Sylvia terribly (not knowing they're both the same person).
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: In the 1970s it was a blockbuster. Younger generations will know the title and the genre of this movie, but the amount that have actually seen any of these films is much lower. Many are only aware of these movies because of Diamanda Hagan's review of three of these movies (4, 5, and the ripoff Emanuelle in America).
  • Protagonist Title: Emmanuelle is the first name of the protagonist.
  • Really Gets Around: The Series. Emmanuelle and Jean are French expats who have an open relationship, and she has liaisons with a lot of people.
  • Recycled In Space: Inspired an American spin-off called "Emmanuelle in Space", which spawned 8 installments!
  • Rich Bitch: In the novel, film, and comic book series, there is Ariane de Saynes, a bossy French countess whose most notable actions in the original film are raping Emmanuelle and introducing her to Mario.
  • Scenery Porn: The film was shot on location in Thailand.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After seeing her former lover at a party in the opening scene of 4, Sylvia runs out the front door of a mansion and flees through the streets.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Mario, the man who encourages Emmanuelle to explore her sexuality in the original film (albeit in a increasingly abusive way, to the point that she basically becomes his lapdog by the end of the film) is completely ignored in the sequels.
  • Shout-Out: Emmanuelle was such a 1970s phenomenon that even the long running British comedy series Carry On made a parody called Carry On Emmannuelle, where her name was deliberately spelled with an extra "n".
  • Skinny Dipping: A famous scene has Emmanuelle swim in the nude in scenes that were shot underwater.
  • Surgical Impersonation: Done deliberately in 4, as Sylvia is tired of having her former lover harassing her, and gets extensive plastic surgery to become a 20-year old woman.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In Emmanuelle 2, Anna Maria appears to be a stand-in for Marie-Ange from the original.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In Emmanuelle 5, the protagonist is warned by multiple people that Prince Rajid is a violent and dangerous despot. She disregards them all and accepts his invitation to go to his country and promote her film. Unsurprisingly, he turns out to be just what everyone said he was, and forces Emmanuelle into his harem against her will.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: It could be argued that Ariane really is a terrible friend to Emmanuelle, only encouraging her sexual adventures in order to increase the likelihood of Emmanuelle sleeping with her.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Some of the rip-offs of "Emmanuelle" spelled her name as "Emanuelle" to avoid lawsuits for copyright infringement.