Love between couples should be outlawed. Every act of love must include a third person.
I have a great affection for ‘Emmanuelle’. It’s something of a guilty pleasure, because I’m only too aware that it’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination. But I find it still has much to enjoy.
My affection for the film stems from a variety of places. Emmanuelle was one of the first adult paperbacks I ever thumbed through as a hormonally explosive teenager. I recall being drawn to the image of a green apple on a brilliant white cover, the fruit’s skin partially peeled back, the flesh within revealed to be the shapely curves of a woman’s derrière, with the peeled skin becoming a serpent of temptation. Ironically, I’m still to read the book from cover to cover. I remember comparatively little of the text, only that it was extremely stirring to my nascent sexuality.
That I should aspire to see the film version of the story was inevitable. There was a time when I could not conceive of anything more arousing than the classic image of Sylvia Kristel: naked, save for knee-high socks and ankle boots and a string of pearls at her throat, sitting in a high-backed chair made of wicker cane. For me, it remains a highly alluring image, a glimpse back to a time when Ms Kristel was, quite literally, the queen of sex.
When I finally watched Emmanuelle, hard core pornography was a commodity far beyond the reach of my hot and sweaty grasp. Emmanuelle was as hard as I could find. I wasn’t disappointed though. Far from it. It was a quantum leap forwards from the occasional flash of breast provided by terrestrial television. Of course, having now experienced more extreme explicit pleasures, both cinematically as well as in real life, the tale of one young French wife’s discovery and exploration of her pleasure thresholds can seem a little tame today.
I still find Emmanuelle an arousing film. That’s in part due to the charm of the waif-like Ms Kristel, whose easy, almost unconscious grace and beauty combine to create an intoxicating sensuality. Almost without trying, she perfectly captures the elegance and femininity of the young Parisian wife (a touch ironic, given that the actress is actually Dutch). The story itself is paper-thin, merely a vessel by which the director Just Jaeckin contrives to have Ms Kristel naked as often as possible. Emmanuelle is a sexually naive newly-wed. Jean, her older, more experienced and somewhat sexually jaded husband, encourages her to open herself to all of the pleasures that her body can give her, whether that be with him or a variety of other partners. According to their developing ethos, the only sin is not to experience.
And it’s in the sexual set-pieces that the rest of the film’s appeal lies. The mutual masturbation scene Emmanuelle indulges in with the equally waif-like Marie-Ange; Emmanuelle’s seduction within the stark white walls of a squash court by the older, calculating Arianne; Emmanuelle being given as a prize to the winner of a kick-boxing fight, and later making slow love to the exquisite Bee; Arianne slowly lifting her skirt, revealing her trimmed mound to Jean, goading him into taking her roughly across an antique table. I find some appeal in all of them.
Yet the scene that I find most arousing – the one that I’ve chosen to talk about here – is the fantasy that Emmanuelle enjoys whilst she and the ingénue Marie-Ange masturbate together on a tropical veranda. Emmanuelle watches as the brazen Marie-Ange pleasures herself. Inspired, she tentatively follows suit, and gradually her eyes close and she drifts away into her reverie. Suddenly, we’re in the first-class compartment of a 747 airliner. It’s a red eye flight; the lights are turned down, most of the passengers are asleep.
Except for Emmanuelle of course. She’s sat alone. Restless, she catches the eye of a handsome male passenger on the other side of the cabin. Teasing him, she allows him a glimpse of her stocking tops as she refastens her suspenders. Cloaking herself with a blanket, Emmanuelle flirts still more, making her desires ever more obvious. Eventually, the man is unable to resist any longer. He goes to her, kissing her passionately, unbuttoning her bright red blouse to reveal her naked breasts. He strokes one with his fingers, nuzzles the other with his lips as he reaches beneath Emmanuelle’s skirt.
Turning her back to him, she allows the stranger to ease her panties down around her stockinged thighs, and to enter her from behind. As she cries out in pleasure, the stranger covers her mouth with his hand, his wedding ring magnifying the sense of illicitness. The scene cuts away to a view of the 747 cutting its way across the evening sky. This is soft-core after all: no come shots allowed.
When the camera returns to the cabin, Emmanuelle is sat alone once again, looking almost serene in her post-orgasmic afterglow. She is not by herself for long though. A second rugged stranger, his interest and libido piqued by Emmanuelle’s first mile-high encounter, now comes to her. Without a word, he lifts her into his arms and carries her to the cramped toilet at the rear of first-class. Placing her on the edge of the sink unit, he penetrates her without dallying, his cock (apparently) sliding effortlessly into a cunt that is undoubtedly still hot and wet and aroused from Emmanuelle’s first fuck.
Is it purely fantasy, the product of her feverish imagination? Or is Emmanuelle actually recalling the flight she took from Paris to join her husband in Thailand? The answer is left to the viewer’s imagination. I personally like to think that it’s the latter.
Why should this scene continue to stir me after so many far more explicit films, after so many erotic encounters of my own? There are a number of reasons. The sexuality of Miss Kristel; the way she allows herself to be taken by not one but two virile, greedy strangers; the almost fetishistic way that her first lover lifts her skirt and draws her panties down to mid-thigh so that he can enter her; the daring of the setting, Emmanuelle taking pleasure amongst the oblivious, indolent passengers. It all connects. I’ve even watched the scene and imagined that it’s my own wife in place of Miss Kristel, surrendering to her lust, to adventure and opportunity, permitting a stranger’s cock to enter her not once, but twice, for nothing other than her own satisfaction.
More than thirty years old, and still going strong. Vive Sylvia Kristel. Vive Emmanuelle.