Inspired by Emmanuelle Arsan’s controversial novel, Emmanuelle starred 22-year-old Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel in the title role.
The phenomenal success of this softcore porn movie can be attributed to the fact that the producers and the director – former fashion photographer Just Jaeckin – chose a professional cast (including an actor of the quality of Alain Cuny), had a relatively large budget and avoided any hard-core sex scenes.
It’s artfully shot (by Richard Suzuki), the Thailand locations are occasionally stunning and Kristel disrobes with some elegance.
However, acting is far from her strong suit, and the dialogue and story – about the sexual awakening of a young woman – are pretty banal.
Jean-Louis Richard’s screenplay deals with Emmanuelle, the bored wife of a French Embassy official in Bangkok, who is urged by her libertine husband, Jean (Daniel Sarky) to explore all the possibilities of sex.
Thus she finds herself in bed with, among others, a lesbian archaeologist called Bee (Marika Green) and elderly roué, Mario (Cuny), who tells her; “It’s the erection, not the orgasm that counts.”
Meanwhile, Jean has been dallying rather forcefully with the aggressive Ariane (Jeanne Colletin) who had already seduced Emmanuelle after a nimble game of squash.
Watch out for the scene early in the movie where a baby-faced young lady called Marie-Ange (Christine Boisson) pulls out a photo of Paul Newman and then masturbates – in public. Hope Newman got to see the film!
An arguably superior sequel – Emmanuelle 2 – was released in 1975.
Sylvia Kristel passed away in October 2012. The actress, who had both throat and lung cancer, was admitted to hospital in July after suffering a stroke. She died in her sleep, aged 60.