Coat yourself in baby oil and throw your keys into the bowl because we’re knee deep in soft-core porno chic heaven with the 1974 French adult sensation Emmanuelle (Madman). It’s a film that brought soft-core exploitation cinema to the mainstream thanks to it’s incredibly high production values and attractive cast. It established all the cliches, with an exotic locale simmering with sexual tension (Thailand), and a young innocent newly married woman beginning a tempestuous voyage of sexual discovery when she joins her highly sexed totally sleazy diplomat husband. It’s dripping with gloss, clearly the filmmakers figuring (correctly) that if they amp up the production values then no one would mind so much that the whole film is just a pretentious excuse to get Sylvia Kristel to nude up and be dry humped by everything that moves. Actually that’s not altogether true, her husband dresses her provocatively and sends her out with a sinister old pervert who educates her by taking her to an opium den and watching while she’s raped. Nothing like a spot of deflowering to get the juices flowing. Yet that’s only the beginning in a questionably erotic film from Just Jaeckin (The Story of O), with music from Francis Lai (The Godfather).
By the time the second film comes around, imaginatively titled Emmanuelle 2 (Madman), the tables have turned for our heroine. She’s been transformed into a sexual predator, preying on animal, mineral and vegetable, grooming innocent young virgins for her marital bed and wrapping her legs around anything with a pulse. Set in Hong Kong, the couple have surrounded themselves with a bunch of sleazy ex pat swingers, where life is just one big never ending key party. The production values here may actually be better than the first, and there are some genuinely erotic moments such as a bit of three-way rub and tug action in a Bali bathhouse, but perhaps to compensate even the slightest whiff of narrative is thrown out with the bath-water and we’re just left with an increasingly tiring bunch of lushly shot scenes of nude people rubbing, licking and unconvincingly pretending to hump each other.
By our third adventure, Emmanuelle 3 (Madman) the cracks are showing. Firstly Emmanuelle has cut her hair and looks a little like a stern primary school teacher, then her love interest, the studly film director Gregory looks leathery like Roy Scheider and acts with the vitality of Keanu Reeves on heavy sedation. This time our oily couple are in Seychelles and Emmanuelle is tiring of the debauchery. The free love psycho babble of the previous films is increasingly sounding like convenient rationalisations for her husband’s attempts to get his end into the help, and even the climaxes are becoming increasingly hollow. Whilst the first film was about Emmanuelle’s physical awakening, this film is about her emotional development, realising that in her pursuit of pleasure she’s actually forgoing the one thing she truly wants. With a Serge Gainsbourg soundtrack, this is actually the best in the series, a real critique on the supposedly super cool liberated lifestyle celebrated in the first two.
Emmanuelle 4 (Madman) is a travesty, shot in the 80’s, six years after the third it’s barely related to the previous three and impossible to watch. The plot revolves around Emmanuelle, now referred to by the actors name, Sylvia, who escaping a stalker ex lover travels to Brazil to get some plastic surgery. Under the knife she goes back to a 20 year old and played by a different actress proceeds to root everyone she stumbles across, including the seedy bloke she was running from. This may possibly be the worst film Fragmented Films has ever submitted to. Within the first five minutes three characters have voice overs, then there’s this ultra kitsch screen wipe that’s an animated zip that gets pulled down the screen, inexplicably transporting us into into a studio set where the old Emmanuelle does these curious psycho sexual things to people, totally unrelated to the plot. It makes Ed Wood seem like Fellini.
After four paragraphs of beating around the bush (so to speak), lets cut to the chase. Eraserhead (Umbrella) is the greatest film ever made by anyone anywhere ever at any time. David Lynch created a new form of cinematic language with this strange malformed baby, a lush wondrous fever dream with some of the most incredible sound design you will ever experience. This is a digitally re-mastered special edition with an hilarious 90 minute making of documentary which is simply Lynch reminiscing and tangenting off about the strange band of outsiders who labored on this baby for five years. We’ve never had such insight into how this magical beast was created – it’s the holy grail.