Emmanuelle. One word that sends shivers down my spine, and not the orgasmic kind… Friends of mine and readers of this blog will already know that I hated Emmanuelle when I finally watched it. The French film, directed by Just Jaeckin, was a hit when released in 1974 and made European softcore porno-chic the next big thing, capitalizing on the success and popularity of Gerard Damiano’s Deep Throat, released in 1972. The pastel colouring, Victoriana interiors and soft lighting all present in the film became clichés that continue to influence softcore pornography even now and Emmanuelle’s personal quest of sexual discovery has continued to remain popular over the years. Much to everyone’s surprise, I couldn’t stand Jaeckin’s feature. I found Emmanuelle, as played by lead actress Sylvia Kristel, to be incredibly immature and unlikable, her sexual adventures to be embarrassing more than erotic and the whole film to be one long narrative on how you shouldn’t be having sex if you’re not ready for it. And yet, I kept thinking, there must be one Emmanuelle film out there I might like considering the first film spawned countless sequels and spinoffs…
Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel) and her husband Jean (Umberto Orsini)
Enter Emmanuelle 2. Released a year after the original film and directed by Francis Giacobetti, Emmanuelle 2 is essentially Emmanuelle all over again. Emmanuelle (Kristel) is traveling back to Hong Kong by ship to be with her husband Jean (Orsini) and on the way there has sex with a female stranger. When eventually in Hong Kong and reunited with Jean, she slips back into the expat lifestyle she enjoyed in the first film, which basically involves sleeping with her husband and with anyone else she fancies. Emmanuelle recounts various sexual experiences she has had throughout the film before seducing a young girl Anna Maria (Catherine Rivet) and getting her husband to take her virginity.
Emmanuelle and Anna Maria (Catherine Rivet)
Well, where do I begin? If you guessed that I hated it, then you guessed correctly. Emmanuelle 2 is just as boring and drawn out as the original. Kristel couldn’t act in the first one and she can’t act in this either. Whilst Emmanuelle doesn’t feel like an emotionally immature young girl in this one, she instead comes across as a selfish spoilt brat. I find Sylvia Kristel unattractive anyway but this characterisation makes watching her in the film unbearable. Umberto Orsini is somewhat more believable, and handsome, in the role of Jean but points go to Rivet. Her role as the inquisitive, shy virgin feels like the only genuine performance! Plus she’s also rather pretty to look at. The rest of the film just seems very bloated with some ridiculous scenes (Emmanuelle having a random orgasm whilst doing acupuncture on herself and a man watches her awkwardly) and terrible acting (the facial expressions of Kristel and Orsini are hilariously wooden, are you jealous of each other or getting off on what you’re doing, it feels like the former).
I dread, with all my heart, watching the third one.